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Review of the MMFF Best Picture: ‘Fan Girl’

Paulo Avelino

THERE have been many Hollywood films about fans, like two movies both titled “The Fan”. The 1981 film is about a mentally unstable fan who stalks his favorite actress and kills the people around her. The 1996 version has Robert de Niro playing an unhinged baseball fan.

Paulo Avelino and Charlie Dizon
Paulo Avelino and Charlie Dizon

In 1990, “Misery” with Kathy Bates playing the obsessed fan of a novelist won her Oscar best actress. Last year, there was a film entitled “The Fanatic” with John Travolta playing an autistic man who’s the devoted fan of an action star, Devon Sawa.

All those films have deranged fans. We now have “Fan Girl”, which won most of the top awards in the current Metro Manila Filmfest. In tone and execution, “Fan Girl” is definitely aeons away from past films about fans and from all the other Metro Filmfest entries. It’s definitely not a feel good movie.

Someone told us she thought it’s about a fan who falls in love with her idol who then reciprocates it. Well, that was the gist of the 1956 Sampaguita Pictures movie, “Movie Fan”, starring the late Amalia Fuentes. But “Fan Girl” is nothing like that as the material is very dark, disturbing, many of its scenes designed to agitate you and make you feel uncomfortable. It also doesn’t have the usual obligatory happy ending. It’s more like “Bona” with Nora Aunor as the adoring fan of Phillip Salvador who exploits her.

Ostensibly, it’s about a 16-year old high school student (newcomer Charlie Dizon), who skips classes to see the free mall show of the fave actor she blindly adores, Paulo Avelino. She then hides at the back of Paulo’s pick up truck and she gets to go home with him in a big vacant house in an unspecified rural location.

The house is obviously not Paulo’s as he doesn’t even have a key to unlock the compound’s huge front gate. They have to climb over it to get in. The girl’s name is not mentioned right away and it’s only towards the end that we learn that she is called Jane.

When Paulo first sees her inside the house, he is initially outraged, but later amused, as she proves to him she is his most ardent fan who knows so many details about his private life and career.

Paulo lets her stay for the night and tells her to sleep on the bed in the room upstairs. While in bed, she yearns for Paulo and fantasizes that he is making love to her. But during the night, she goes down and sees him having sex with an unknown woman.

At first, you’d think the movie is just about the obsession of an avid fan crazy for her idol. But soon, the characters are both crying as they share with each other the intimate details of their miserable lives.

They both have unsavory issues with their parents. Jane, for one, has a negligent dad who abandoned their family then her mom got a lover who is violent and abusive and beats her up.

That’s all we can share with you as giving out more details about the plotting will definitely be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that Jane is so utterly disappointed and disillusioned with her idol after she gets to know the real him.

And since pictures of Duterte are seen in the movie, some folks looking for socio-political overtones are now equating all this to what happened to some diehard Dutertards who have since changed their allegiance to their idol.

We’re not surprised that Charlie Dizon won as filmfest best actress as she has the most demanding role played by any actress in recent years. She has only one costume throughout, her school uniform, and is in every scene of the movie that starts with her and also ends with her, long after Paulo has walked out of the picture.

One gets so discomfitted watching her practically offering herself to Paulo, insisting that “hindi na ako bata”. And when Paulo finally takes her from behind, we can’t blame him as she’s asking for it. The stalker, who takes secret selfies with the actor she adores while he is sleeping, has subsequently become the victim.

Charlie shows genuine emotions in all her scenes, giving a perfectly nuanced performance particularly in the scenes where she has no dialogue but just shows her body language and facial reactions, specially when she finally discovers that the idol she put on a pedestal is a monster with feet of clay.

The film’s final sequence makes us realize that Jane’s idolizing Paulo is her way of escaping from the harsh realities of her own family life, but then, after the encounter with him, she wakes up and her fantasies are over.

By the end of the movie, she has learned all the cuss words she heard from the foul-mouthed Paulo (specially the local word for sonovabitch) and now uses them on her abusive stepfather who she now feels empowered to oppose and defy. Yes, she has come of age.

It’s very brave of Paulo to accept the role and the risks it involves. We can understand the sentiment of other actors who rejected it when it was offered to them as their fans might misconstrue that the actor they’ll play on screen is a realistic reflection of their true selves.

Paulo not only delivers endless expletives in all his scenes but he is also shown boozing, smoking weed, inhaling drugs and taking advantage of women. And he is also hiding such a sordid secret in his life that Jane eventually discovers.

Paulo also allows himself to do a nude scene at a time when his body looks out of shape and has gone to seed. At one point, he is so effective in his role that he looks so dirty, unkempt and even repulsive.

As a true auteur who writes and directs her own films, Antoinette Jadaone has proven she is really one of our most inventive filmmakers today. We can only hope her inamorato (who also produced the film) is not similar to the good-for-nothing guys she featured in “Fan Girl”.

Of course, there are some details that make you wonder, like if Jane did come from an impoverished family, how come she can afford to attend ‘Lazy Boy’ block screenings of Paulo’s movies that’s worth P450 per ticket?

But then, that’s nitpicking. The fact remains that “Fan Girl” is really worth watching and we no longer wonder why the jurors went gaga over it and chose it as best film over the other drama entries about family, love and forgiveness that actually comply more to the criteria of the Metro filmfest that call for films that are reflective of the Filipino sensibilities and culture.

Publication Source :    People's Journal
Mario Bautista
Former member: Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Urian)