Never has a Filipino film grappled and left me with emotional turmoil (for almost two years) until finishing Fan Girl. Here’s my complete commentary and Fan Girl Film Review:
For one, it’s a film worthy of its buzz. Since last year, it has been announced that director Antoinette Jadaone (of Six Degrees of Separation from Lillia Cuntapay, That Thing Called Tadhana) announced that she is making a film about fangirling with Paulo Avelino playing himself as an idol. As a fan of both artists, I was excited and could hardly wait.
Fan Girl was released a few months before and made it to the Tokyo International Film Festival, garnering positive reviews. Though ironic, I was still happy that the film enjoys online streams for the Metro Manila Film Festival.
The trailer could make every film enthusiast curious and excited. I heard that the early reviews had spoilers in them, so I didn’t read any. I knew there was a plot twist, and it would be futile if I get spoiled. So, I watched the film with my siblings after our Christmas dinner (my sister, as a physician, was on duty on the 24th, so we had to move our Noche Buena on the 25th).
Fan Girl Film Analysis (this part contains spoilers)
Fan Girl started funny, ‘coz as a fangirl myself, I could relate to Jane’s obsession. Everything that introduced Fan Girl has had something to say about why it’s deterring to meet your heroes. The title itself says it all. In the sheer scope of things, one has to wonder, of course, it’s Paulo Avelino, and they marketed the film that he plays himself. However, there was something wrong with him in the trailer, so I thought that Jane might have only imagined things.
Again, at the start, the film made it seem like it was Paulo. Well, if you’ve been following the actor for a while, you know that he’s one cool guy who loves rock music and the rebel culture. Hence, you wouldn’t wonder.
As you dig deeper into the film, however, you start to think that there might be something wrong about this Paulo. At first, I thought he was only a stuntman or a doppelganger. It wasn’t until towards the end of the film that I realized that it was Paulo, but only in Jane’s imagination. All the while, it was the abusive boyfriend of her mother.
I started to recall the little things, and there were already several clues throughout the film that the real Paulo Avelino wouldn’t do. The most obvious one was the abandoned house where he hung out. It wasn’t his house–there was no water or electricity. He even had to climb the gate to be able to come in.
All the swearing wasn’t much of a clue for me because almost everyone swears, and Paulo might not be an exception. Another clue was buying Winnsboro (a combination of Winston and Marlboro, a Philippine-made cigarette that caters to the lower class). Of course, Paulo wouldn’t buy something like that. But perhaps one of the most telling of them all is the fact that the character of Paulo was in love with a woman in the suburbs and had a child with her. The woman is also only riding a tricycle, so how can she probably have something to do with the real Paulo Avelino who’s embedded in glamour?
Another big clue was that on the first day that Jane didn’t come home, her mother looks for her and told her that her lover didn’t come to her and was with another woman. After three days of Jane not coming home, her mother tells her again that she still hasn’t seen her lover for three days. Hence, Jane was with her mom’s lover, and not Paulo Avelino.
Towards the end, you see Jane walking towards one of the most impoverished communities in Metro Manila. Upon coming home, she was furious to see her mother welcoming her boyfriend again. She was so furious that she couldn’t control her emotions. The boyfriend utters several abusive words–exactly the words that came out of Paulo’s mouth. The most significant confirmation for me was that, like one of the final scenes in the suburbs, Paulo asked her to buy cigars. And her mom’s boyfriend made her buy cigars as well.
Jane already knew that there would be abuse coming when she is out of the house, so after buying the cigar, she called the police. I assumed that it was also because of the fact that the boyfriend raped her.
Fan Girl Commentary
Fan Girl had a lot of obvious and hidden commentary. If you’ve been on social media, some netizens shared still shots of blurred pictures of the Philippines’ incumbent president. And if you’re part of the left-wing, your brain would definitely catch it and be glad that Director Antoinette Jadaone gave you that favor.
Upon the confirmation of the final scenes, I felt a heavy scourging sensation in my chest and even in my brain. The film was so tragic. I’ve never felt this strong emotional sympathy for another character in a long time. Jane truly embodies what a lot of women go through in real life.
Jane was plain Jane and a fangirl. Perhaps with her grueling fate, the only way she could cope was her idolatry of Paulo Avelino, whom she fantasized about being with all the time. Perhaps for her to feel better about her situation, she would imagine it was someone pleasant, instead of the real person.
Many people in my country have equated the film’s commentary to our incumbent president, whose ways might not be very diplomatic, and even struts a street-like cred. Perhaps Director Antoinette Jadaone showcased and compared Paulo or Jane’s mother’s boyfriend to Duterte.
I think that the comment that Duterte’s bit of chauvinism may empower misogynists in the country is a valid point. And yes, even if he wasn’t president, many rapes and assaults against people would continue. But still, it’s wrong to completely dismiss this film because some people think there’s a political “agenda” in making it. Chauvinism and Misogyny isn’t only happening in the impoverished streets in my country, but also to the elites and the first-world. It’s an unfortunate reality, and after watching the film, I was reintroduced to it again.
Even though we’re far behind the times in history where women were treated as second-class citizens, I wouldn’t deny the fact that until today, I still sense a lot of male chauvinism even in my male loved ones, and I think it’s bad, but not to a fault. Sometimes, this issue is out of our control, but I’m thankful for Antoinette Jadaone for re-awakening us through this film.
However, in Fan Girl, the man was not only a chauvinist but a misogynist who abused the women in his life.
While a lot of people have extremely politicized the film, I believe that its commentary is worthy because I know of a lot of girls and women who have been assaulted and raped even without them knowing that it was rape. While the right wing would dismiss the film for having a political agenda regarding Duterte, I think that most importantly, it’s about males and their superiority complex, in general. And I believe that’s valid and crucial.
This commentary should apply to both the extreme left and right-wing supporters of the current administration because all of them are blind followers. In politics, I learned that it’s a battle of interests, and not about what we should be able to get. I mean, we should demand more from them, but the reality is that most of them do not care about everyone but themselves and whoever they share their interests with. It’s good to fight for our rights, but sometimes, reality kicks in, and we realize that we have very little control over what is happening.
Both the left and right politicians have great PR machinery that makes people blind and not see the real score of what they are or what they’re fighting. Like in business, Politics is all about branding and promotion. The more public relations they use, the more they’re not in it for the masses. Hence, I don’t subscribe to personality and identity politics anymore because that is all PR. I wish everyone would realize that and not continue to be blinded and oblivious to that reality.
I titled the movie review as a real-life event because no matter what others say that the movie is about propaganda, the reality is that it happens. I’m not being politically-correct here. A lot of women and girls get abused. And we have to awaken ourselves to stop it from happening.
Also, many of us continue to be blind. Again, the real deal is, Politics is just a PR machinery. And it’s a battle of self-interests, not the interest of many. We just have to weigh which ones we can benefit from the most and take it as that. No to Identity and Personality Politics!
Fan Girl is dark, gripping, and maddening. It kept me awake for almost five days. Watch it to be awakened as well.
Watch Fan Girl on Upstream PH.