Sunday, December 27, 2020

Fan Girl


Obsessed teenager Jane (Charlie Dizon) considers herself as the biggest fan of matinee idol Paulo Avelino (Paulo Avelino). She buys all of his posters and magazine covers, knows every useless trivia about his life, and watches all of his films on the first day of screening. But perhaps what can be considered as her most daring adventure as a fan girl to date is attending his mall show and locating his pick-up truck afterwards, hopping on to and hiding at the back until he unwittingly drives both of them away to a far-flung province. Falling asleep due to the long trip, she wakes up in the dark with the vehicle parked right outside the locked gate of a big decrepit mansion. Sneaking in, she will soon discover that the guy she has been idolizing all this time is not really who she imagined him to be.

I wasn’t really planning on watching any MMFF film this year. A quick glance of the film posters is enough to tell you that majority are just a rehash of storylines from festivals past. Fan Girl did not really appeal to me at first because I thought it was just a film adaptation of that Virgin Labfest short of the same title, which was hilarious but cringey AF. It wasn’t until it swept the trophies come awards night did it pique my curiosity. After all, most of the unsolicited feedback on social media prior to that seemed to be focused more on Avelino’s prosthetic dick.

Avelino always plays the pretty boy roles, but he is no stranger to controversial ones. He has done gay; he has done bisexual. He has toured both the mainstream and indie circuits. This, however, seems to be his first foray into what can be considered as a career-sabotaging role, given how he is playing a version of himself, albeit heavily fictional. While most moviegoers would know better, there will always be those who would think that he is just portraying himself. But then again, what is a career without risks, right? Well, it obviously paid off now that he has another Best Actor trophy to add to his collection.

I have totally no idea who Dizon is, but after witnessing how she tackled this role, it is easy to see how she won both critics and voters over. Coming of age storylines are not uncommon in indie films, even though most of the material available primarily concentrate on prepubescent boys and gays, as if girls were not allowed to go through such a phase. This subject matter is frowned upon as taboo in mainstream cinema, which is perhaps why this will go down in history as a star-making turn for this newbie. Her dilemma now is how to go back to teenybopper roles after this. Well, Kathryn Bernardo did a similar stint once on TV and her career turned out just fine. This kid will more or less be okay.

The shock value stems from the fact that such material is not a trend at the MMFF, which is probably the reason why everyone is hailing it as a brave endeavor from director Antoinette Jadaone. It actually is, considering the amount of deglamorization and risqué scenes spread out through the movie’s entire runtime. Aside from that, the story also presents a strong argument about the entertainment industry that we’ve always known about but tend to bluntly deny in favor of romanticized ideals.

Personally, what I liked most about Fan Girl is how ambiguous it all appears to be. It starts out as some chronicle on hardcore fangirling leading you to think that this will just be another boring tale of tween obsession. And then it gradually takes a dark turn to the point that you are no longer sure whether to expect a slasher flick, a horror movie, or a psychological thriller. That air of ambiguity along with what seems to be an unreliable narrator keeps the plot interesting. Suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

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