Festivals, Reviews

‘Fan Girl’: An Effort in Breaking Porcelain Images

There’s a familiar line from Patrick Stump’s 2011 song “Porcelain” that goes, “No, I simply can’t resist my imagination, no amount of patience validates my preoccupation, let me say this, you look better famous”. It’s sung with a sneer guised in disappointment. The kinetic sound feels starry as the narrator pleas for the subject to stay perfect. Watching Antoinette Jadaone’s Fan Girl, I’m reminded of this song in the way our protagonist Jane (Charlie Dizon) tries to keep that porcelain image of her idol intact as she endures the monster that swarms out of that cracking glass.

Jane is a 16-year-old high school student. Already a huge fan of Paulo Avelino (who plays a fictional version of himself), she boasts an impressive knowledge of his public life: she can cite his filmography down to his first appearance, his astrological sign, his public relationships, and the way he cries on cue. At the beginning of the film, she ignores school responsibilities to see Paulo at a local mall show.

In an impulse, she climbs into the back of his pick-up truck and hides herself among rolled-up film posters. As they drive away from the city and Paulo leaves his public life, he starts shedding his persona. Jane’s decision to pursue Paulo is met with dire consequences as the film strips down the actor to his barest and most despicable self while simultaneously breaking down the fan’s naive obsession. 

Avelino, known to always play the romcom heartbreaker, twists his charm but tends to lean more on swearing to express his frustration and anger. It’s almost hilarious to watch until he becomes a monstrous version that notches up the nausea and misogyny by the third act. He disappears into a jaded stench of a being that’s admirable to watch.

The real gift of this film is Dizon. Every close-up of her face has a story to tell. Her giddiness, her foolishness, her disappointment and anger all entail the endurance and patience of having to make the most of an already cracked image of the man of her dreams. 

Charlie Dizon plays high schooler Jane enamored with a fictional Paulo Avelino

Jadaone’s films have always explored relationships, as evident in her previous efforts: That Thing Called Tadhana, Never Not Love You, and Six Degrees of Separation with Lilia Cuntapay. In these films, there’s always a sense of warmth that you can lean on in its dialogue, cushioned with charming relatable characters. In Fan Girl, she dissects the relationship between the idol and the fan, crossing lines and boundaries, unafraid to make viewers squirm in discomfort.

While the film does its best to challenge its audience, it does come with an perseverance that makes it hard to swallow. There are times when the dialogue feels spacious, bridged by long anxious takes and acts of intoxication aiming to slowly break Jane’s character. Even then, our lead still mends the cracks that her dream man shows; it’s frustrating until you remember how young she is and how she mistakes Paulo’s habits as an invitation to become something more than a fangirl. The facade is already broken and you can see Jane bleeding from it. She endures, slowly picking up the shards to still build that glass image she had once known.

Jadaone shows how hard it is to crack down someone’s porcelain image, and that in the act of breaking that image, one inevitably gets hurt. There’s a question of whether the act of being hurt in the process is necessary given that the porcelain image given to us isn’t actually created by us.

Avelino’s portrayal of himself and how he behaves could be paralleled to certain macho strongmen like Duterte. There are moments in the film where Duterte’s image haunts like a specter in various angles but even then, it doesn’t shake the table enough to make a statement. Its resolution heartbreakingly depends on the tools of these men as a means of closure. When we break down the false porcelain image, do we do nothing but stare at it? Or do we cling to another porcelain image with sharper cracks?

Jadaone’s anger is palpable in this film. You can feel it in its twists and turns that the eventual resolution feels like a painful stab that’s redacted from your side, and you’re left gasping in pain from the awareness of the hole it made. It’s a good film to reflect on and it’s admirable in its ambition and effort to break down the macho image that’s continuously fed to us, but I can’t help but think that there’s more to be said.

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