The opening of Jawline is not dissimilar to a scene from Ingrid Goes West. 16 year-old Austyn Tester is on an impromptu, increasingly long photoshoot, posing and giving pointers to his friend who’s in the role of the dutiful photographer. Examining the pictures on his phone, Austyn talks of his dream to become social media famous.
Director Liza Mandelup switches focus between the young, hopeful Austyn slowly trying to build a substantial fanbase from the isolation of Tennessee, and a group of LA-based stars on the rise. Living in a kind of social media incubator, the boys – continuous objects of teenage girl lust – are trained and managed in advancing their careers as insta-famous figures.
When compared with this ruthless, streamlined system in Hollywood, Austyn’s chances of breaking the internet seem to grow faint – even after a brief stint on tour, keeping up the relentless workload required to become famous takes its toll. Austyn’s chirpy outlook on life in his videos is rarely reflected when the camera stops rolling and the realisation occurs that he can never take a day off if he wants to get noticed.
Mandelup attempts to understand her subjects, bringing to the surface the unhealthy habits using social media can lead to, while also highlighting its benefits, especially for young girls who watch videos like Austyn’s to cope with feelings of loneliness and insecurity. Mandelup understands that this industry is built predominantly on the viewing habits of teen girls, and therefore doesn’t alienate them by being condescending or dismissive of them.
Jawline is an in-depth, sensitive exploration of male social media stars and their fans, the grind it takes to get to the top, and the dangers of relying on instant fame as a career plan, even when it seems close enough to touch.
CAST: Austyn Tester
DIRECTOR: Liza Mandelup
SYNOPSIS: 16 year-old Austyn is hoping his positivity-exuding live streams will take him away from Tennessee, but not all goes to plan.