Entertainment » Movies


by Rob Lester
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 23, 2019

Are you the curious fly on the wall type? Does reality TV's meandering melodrama and minutae hold appeal? Does social media's pull and power intrigue you? Then, "Jawline" might be just your speed. But don't expect constant speediness. Snail-paced passages dominate this documentary, fondly following day-to-day doldroms and dreams of small-town Tennessee teenager Austyn Tester, who is seeking notoriety, attention, adventure, and adulation. Before/after big city escapes the camera lingers long and lazily, even languidly, as he and/or his pet cats awaken, stretch and yawn, and he then lopes around with his brother or nagging mother, doing dishes or doing, well, nothing much. Point made: Life is dull. His hopeful vehicle for escape from claustrophobic life: Self-made videos of chipper chat seen by a seemingly endless supplies of gushing teen/pre-teen girls.

Captured comments from worshipful girls reveal their own loneliness and miseries as misfits, causing them to follow cute boys who talk to them onscreen, feeling connection ("They're like my family"), having crushes, and traveling to meet them in person at arranged group events. They come from all over. And Austyn is all over his mission to mesmerize, and and can't get over the possible excitement. His modesty (insecurity?) save him from arrogance.

Fair-haired, fairly naive Austyn accumulates subscribers, but he and the other guys don't evidence much beyond fashion, friendliness, flirtiness, and charm. They're groomed and marshalled by managers and wranglers (the main one is openly gay, an aspect that's glossed over). We see the occasionally irritable fellows coached on how to bounce onto a stage in front of hordes of adoring admirers — with lots of energy and the exact perfect way to greet them heartily with "What's up!!??!!!" Not skilled singers or dancers, none of them radiate wit or intellect, instead offering smiles, winks, supportive, feel-good balms: Spoken messages (Think Positive! Be Yourself!). Pseudo-fame is fleeting; bubbles burst.

He thinks he might wanna be an actor, wannabe Austyn opines in his Southern drawl — his speech, like so many teens, inarticulate, halting words alternating with the constant use of the word "like." That other kind of "like" (which YouTubers and others depend on from viewers) are, like, what it's about. But what "Jawline"'s bottom line is not documented in slices of life in slow or fast lane, but rather food for thought about the overwhelming seductiveness of social media as substitute for real life, surface values, and societal changes.

ROB LESTER returns to Edge in 2019 after several years of being otherwise occupied writing and directing musical theatre shows, working as a dramaturg, arts consultant, and contributing articles and reviews to various outlets. His long-running "Sound Advice" column covering cast albums and vocal CDs has been running regularly at www.TalkinBroadway.com for almost 15 years.


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