The question is, is there anything new to see down this road? And the answer (to my surprise) is a very qualified ‘yes’... for some of the journey at least.
Travolta’s Moose is an ageing fanboy on the spectrum. Badly dressed in loud shirts and with a shocker of a shaved-head-mullet, he tootles about the city on his motor scooter and seems to eke out a meagre living playing an English ‘bobby’ street character at a local tourist trap where his fellow buskers, sleazy Todd (Jacob Grodnik) and pickpocket Slim (James Paxton) like to bully him between gigs. But on the advice of a friendly Security Guard (Jeff Chase) Moose decides to stand up for himself against the bullies and we discover he’s got both a temper and the physical strength to make that a worry.
Most of the time, though, his attention is devoted to his obsession with collecting movie memorabilia associated with his favourite celebrity crush. When a book signing gives him an opportunity to meet his hero things start to go wrong. Turns out Dunbar isn’t a very nice man and hurt at getting dissed by the movie star and winding up without an autograph, Moose sets out to put things right. Moose’s (seemingly) only friend, paparazzi photographer Leah (Ana Golja) shows him an app that gives out the location of the homes of Hollywood stars and then next thing you know, Moose is legging it over Dunbar’s security fence in order to hand deliver a letter calling Dunbar to account. It’s around here that things start to go downhill (both for Moose, AND for the movie).
Despite the drubbing this film has received by almost every reviewer who seems to delight in sinking the boot into Travolta’s recent run of big screen shockers, there are some positives to find in this movie. Travolta’s performance is strong and measured and it’s nice to see him doing something other than playing alpha-male, ultra-violent caricatures that do little more than chew up the scenery (yes, I’m looking at you Swordfish). There’s a gentleness to Moose that elicits some sympathy in the character (at least it did from me) and Travolta plays him as low status for much of the film, something we don’t often get to see. What undermines this is some dodgy logic to the way the story unfolds in the second half. There’s also an attempt at something deeper than just the psycho-fan and the celebrity-victim going on here but its effort to explore the co-dependent relationship that almost exists between star and fan doesn’t quite get there. In fact, for me, there’s a fork in the road near the end of the film that could have sent us down the path of redemption for both characters, where both men could have learned something about their personalities and behaviours and grown from it. Sadly, the film diverts at this point of the story and opts, instead, for some gory violence and an attempt at a twist that it doesn’t quite pull off. Perhaps, as first-time screenwriters, Durst and his co-writer Dave Bekerman felt safer taking the road more travelled despite it leading the story past familiar tropes to a less satisfying conclusion.
Oddly, the film is punctuated with some vivid animated cartoon images that encapsulate some (but not all) of the key beats of the story. As images, they’re quite effective, but they aren’t really used enough, or to any great benefit in the unfolding of the narrative which means they end up as little more than an anachronism.
It’s a shame, but, despite a very good performance from Travolta in what seems to be a well-meaning attempt to tell an interesting story that aims for a fresh take on the ‘obsessive number one fan’ genre, the film gets lost along the way and runs out of petrol just in time to hit a dead end.