When Jane, a rabid fan of Paulo Avelino, skips class to catch a mall show of Avelino and Bea Alonzo and then hides at the back of her idol’s pick-up truck, you know that the boundaries of what is real and fantasy will be blurred and all sense of propriety will be thrown out the window. At the get go, everything you know about writer and director Antoinette Jadaone’s filmography will not prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster that is ‘Fan Girl.’
From the get go, Jadaone keeps the focus on Charlie Dizon’s Jane. The camera is framed to capture all the nuances of her character as this once in a lifetime opportunity for Jane to get up close and personal with her idol deconstructs her being and takes a hard look at the frightening side of fandoms.
Even when the camera is on Paulo Avelino (playing a darker, unglamorized and fictional version of himself), it’s through the point-of-view of Jane. He is objectified and dehumanized by her violation of his privacy. Avelino gets his close ups in service of Jane’s gaze, capturing the contours of his face, and in one scene, as he is sleeping, she looks at him from head to crotch. When they come physically close, the scene shifts to the fantasy in her head with soft bright lights and Avelino in snappy clothes and slick and styled hair.
And in the first parts of the film, it doesn’t matter that she wakes up in the middle of nowhere, in a large house in the middle of a forest or a field, with no furniture, and alone with a man she does not know personally, who is not amused that she has broken into his private space, and who is drinking and taking cocaine. She’s sixteen and alone with a strange man, in an area without signal and no one knows she’s there.
But ‘Fan Girl’ manages to show us that he’s trapped in that situation with her.
Despite all of Avelino’s cursing and rough treatment, the power feels like it is Jane’s court. In this limbo, he’s not the celebrity that she sees him as. He can swear and drink. There’s no makeup on Avelino and you can see the blemishes on his skin and when he takes off his shirt, it’s not the tight, fit body you are used to seeing in his underwear ads or magazine photo shoots. In this space, alone with her, he is human and she doesn’t care.
It is in the blurring of Jane’s reality and her fantasy, of what the film presents as fiction and it’s collision with what little we know of fact about this relationship between fan and idol that the film works its magic. Because, by the end of this film, both Jane and the fictional Paulo Avelino are stripped away of all their constructions and transformed into their most vulnerable aspects of whatever humanity both Charlie Dizon and the real Paulo Avelino can give these characters. And in that process, these characters are liberated by the encounter. Both are forced to face the true conditions that really bind them and attempt to break the law to free themselves of the chains that lock them in place.
But the film never shows us the resolutions of these actions. What the film revels in is in the act of breaking down these characters and capturing them on camera in their moment of release.
This is really Charlie Dizon’s movie, through and through. She is wild and unpredictable. More importantly, she is uninhibited and fully committed to this character, never for one moment playing for sympathy. There is a maturity that Dizon has in presenting Jane’s obsession as some dark manifestation of a darker secret that is revealed in the last act of ‘Fan Girl.’ Jane is not some innocent and naive young girl, and this is the magic of Dizon’s performance. And the way she relates all of this to the camera that is continuously on her is far better than many more experienced actors in the country. She is a wonderful discovery.
And, if anything, ‘Fan Girl’ realises the promise of the darker themes of Jadaone’s previous works: the darkness in the stories that lay underneath films like ‘Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay’ ‘Love You to the Stars and Back,’ ‘Never Not Love You,’ and her script for ‘English Only Please.’ There were dark undercurrents there that were played down due to their respective genres, but they come out in full force here in ‘Fan Girl.’ It’s an exciting step into a broader territory for Jadaone.
Fan Girl is available for streaming at P250 until January 7, 2021. Tickets are sold via Globe’s GMovies, while the film can be streamed via Upstream.