A Film a Week - Fan Girl

 previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

The fantasy life of teenagers and, once it clashes with the reality, things can get tricky. A teenage girl’s obsession with her favourite TV and movie star is in the focus of Antoinette Jadaone’s “Fan Girl”. After its world premiere at Tokyo International Film Festival, the film had its European premiere at the official competition of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where we were able to see it.

Jenny (played by the up and coming young actress Charlie Dizon) seems like a regular Filipino high school girl who would rather go to the promotional gig of her favourite film stars Paulo Avelino and Bea Alonso than spend her time at school. She is Paulo’s no. 1 fan and also has a crush on him. When she manages to smuggle in the back of his pick-up truck in the aftermath of the mall performance, she thinks she is the luckiest girl in the world. She has no plan, but she is going to take a look into his life off the screen.

The back of the truck is just the beginning, but what she sees from there would be enough of the warning for a regular girl. Paulo (played by the Filipino film, TV and soap opera star Paulo Avelino himself) is not anything like his TV persona, but rather a nervous and rude dude prone to the fits of rage over minutiae and accustomed to use the people he sees not worthy of his presence. It does not stop Jenny, and when she breaks into his decadent villa, the two spend a night and the following day together. There is banter, arguing and verbal humiliation, but there are also some gentle and sincere moments. Nevertheless, meeting an idol and the object of fantasies proves to be not a good idea.

Although pretty standard regarding its core premise, “Fan Girl” is an emotional, rather unpleasant and sometimes even shocking viewing experience thanks to the filmmaker’s clear vision transformed into the script and directing. Antoinette Jadaone is still a relatively young auteur, but quite a prolific one over the course of the current decade, with more than a dozen titles (features, shorts and TV series) under her belt. Her directing style is along the lines of the contemporary Filipino cinema, with longer takes by a hand-held camera and clean, sometimes even abrupt cuts among them framed into the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio. It serves the purpose here, especially when it comes to dosing the amount of unpleasantness the viewer should take before it becomes exploitative.

Powered by the wonderful performance of Charlie Dizon as Jane, “Fan Girl” remains an intriguing piece of cinematic work even during the passages of the film where the script seems a bit thin and artificially constructed (at times it seems that “Fan Girl” could be a killer short or mid-length film). On the opposite side of this two-hander, we have a more experienced actor whose character might even seem “meatier”, but Avelino seems like he is usually satisfied with repeating the “spoiled movie star” routine mixed with some asshole attitude.

In the end, “Fan Girl” might not be a perfect film, but it is certainly a legitimate and brave look into the fandom, obsession with the screen stars and the disappointment when the idols prove to be quite different than their carefully constructed screen personas. It certainly feels more real than a typical cautionary tale. Kids, observe your idols from safe distance!

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