I just watched a movie that I feel compelled to review: The Fanatic starring John Travolta. Released on August 30, 2019, The Fanatic didn’t have much of a fighting chance. It had a limited theatrical run, followed by a release on digital platforms. Here’s the film’s description: “On the grimy streets of Hollywood, a celebrity-obsessed man feels slighted by his favorite movie star and embarks on an unhinged quest to get a response – leading to a home invasion and a very long night that changes both men irreparably.” This premise fascinated me, primarily because I’m a passionate fan of all forms of entertainment. Not only have I had the pleasure of attending countless concerts, movies, and star-studded events, I’ve interviewed almost all of my celebrity heroes and befriended a few of them along the way. So, a film starring John Travolta as a fan that takes things too far was something I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I finally watched it because it’s the best film I’ve seen this year and, in my opinion, John Travolta’s greatest dramatic performance to date.
My wife and I couldn’t believe that The Fanatic was written and directed by Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit fame. We had no clue that he broke into the movie business. Based on this film alone, I’m happy to say he has a great deal of talent. Regardless of Fred’s contributions to this movie, the real shining light is John Travolta. This is such an unusual role for him, and he does a phenomenal job of portraying an insecure, vulnerable, obsessive fan of movies that has deep psychological issues. Despite the character’s abhorrent behavior throughout this twisted tale, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him because he’s such a sad and pathetic soul. John Travolta completely inhabits this character (i.e., Moose) and some scenes had me on the edge of my seat with anticipation, while others had me busting out in laughter at the ridiculousness of Moose’s antics. It’s very reminiscent of Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, which I loved. With The Fanatic, I was totally invested from start to finish and impressed by where this film went. It didn’t shy away from uncomfortable moments—whether they be between Moose and his celebrity crush or Moose and his tormentors. The humanity and fragility of his character was always at the forefront, which made for a compelling piece of cinema.
The Fanatic will also make you think about how odd it is that us normal folk ask celebrities for autographs in the first place. How strange is it that—at some point in our existence—we decided to place a high value on getting another human being to use an ink-based tool to scrawl their name on an item of our choosing? I think this is why I care more about getting photos with those I admire. It’s much more meaningful and it literally captures a moment in time. By interviewing and being around celebrities I’ve learned that it’s best to treat them like normal everyday people. Don’t get caught up in the grandeur of their accomplishments; just talk to them like anyone you’d bump into on the street. While watching Moose uncomfortably interact with people—both famous and not-so-famous—in The Fanatic, I wanted to reach through the screen so I could grab and shake him and say, “You’re going about it all wrong!” And that’s exactly what good movies do: they create that suspension of disbelief for us during which we feel that these characters are real, not actors executing a script. The Fanatic did just that. It’s a cautionary tale of how being overzealous about one’s fandom can lead to dark and disturbing places. It will make you think about invasion of privacy, idolizing and interacting with your heroes, and where you fall along the spectrum of fandom. Are you Moose, or do you keep your passion in check? That’s for you to decide. But one thing is for sure—The Fanatic is an excellent movie that everyone should see.