The Fanatic (2019)

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON AUTISM, NOR AM I MAKING ANY JUDGMENTS ON AUTISTIC PEOPLE. I AM INSTEAD CRITIQUING ACTIONS DONE BY AN AUTISTIC CHARACTER WRITTEN BY A NEUROTYPICAL PERSON

I was going to start this post off saying that the movie hated its viewers and its characters, but after a lot of thinking I don’t believe that. The movie doesn’t care what you think or how you feel, and it doesn’t care about any of its characters. It has a story to tell about awful people doing awful things, and if you happen to be watching then I guess you’re along for the ride.

This is the second year in a row that my Movie Night’s “The Worst of 20XX” has featured a movie from Mr. John Travolta, and while part of me wants him to keep making bad choices I think even he’s getting tired. Gotti was a mess from start to finish and I don’t think it could have been salvaged at all. This movie, I think, could have been saved with some severe script editing. Granted, it was off to a rough start being written and directed by Fred Durst (you know, lead singer of Limp Bizkit), but it has a story it wants to convey and certainly tries to do so. It just… doesn’t have a message. Or any good points, really.

Travolta plays Moose, a severely autistic man (as far as we can tell, and I’ll trust the one guy at Movie Night who’s a mental health counselor) who is obsessed with movie star Hunter Dunbar. Moose is bullied and disrespected, but when Dunbar bullies and disrespects him, Moose… well he doesn’t really seek out revenge, he just kind of channels Annie Wilkes from Misery and demands one-on-one time from Dunbar. It does not go well for anyone.

I can’t bring myself to say that Travolta was bad in this. He gave his all to playing a severely autistic person and the result honestly is pretty uncomfortable, but that’s in part because the movie doesn’t give a shit about him. He’s largely unsupervised, and its in those times that he gets into the most trouble. His only friend explains what behaviors are bad, but he does them anyway. Hell, Dunbar threatens violence against Moose on more than one occasion if he ever goes near his house again, but Moose… keeps on going back to Dunbar’s house. The story has him return to the house, so he returns, characterization be damned.

One part that infuriates me is the sad tale of the housekeeper, Dora. She works for Dunbar, has at the very least kissed him before, and gets killed by Moose. On accident, sure! But… still in a brutal way. After Moose scares her while trespassing on Dunbar’s property (for the second time), she flails at him until he punches her in the face, knocking her to the ground, but not before her skull cracks open on the rim of a potted plant. Moose, unaware that she’s dead, warns her that bloody noses are bad, and then her corpse is forgotten about until the end of the movie. Like, what the fuck? What was the point of that?

The point, as it turns out, is that after Dunbar escapes from being tied up and tortures Moose for a while (shooting off fingers and stabbing him in the eye) before ultimately letting him go, the cops arrive and arrest Dunbar thinking he killed Dora. Which… makes no sense? His gardener appears to be the one accusing Dunbar, but Dunbar had mentioned to the gardener that Dora had seen someone lurking around. Dunbar’s house is full of blood? Well it’s not her’s. That’s a whole separate legal mess that’s only going to be complicated by the movie indicating that Moose isn’t going to the cops. She’s just dead so that “the villain” of the movie gets punished. It’s lazy and shows how little this movie cares about anything or anyone.


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