Hulu's 'Jawline' uses its 16-year-old hero Austyn Tester to explore the dreams and complexities of teenage social media fame
At first glance, director Liza Mandelup's feature debut looks plain sad – the color and noise of grey. But 'Jawline' is a documentary that goes beyond the happy, pleasant, and sad to present a story with earnestness.
It has become almost second nature for us to look down upon influencers and social media celebrities – it's all superficial, flamboyant and fake, we say. But what about those for whom the only way to a better life is through social media?
Mandelup’s feature debut, 'Jawline' tells the story on one such social media influencer.
16-year-old Austyn Tester, from Tennessee, is a handsome young boy. A rising star in the live-broadcast ecosystem, Austyn is an earnest vlogger who is loved by thousands of young girls, who are all more than eager for his attention and his 'likes' on social media while he has built his following on wide-eyed optimism and teen girl lust.
For Austyn and many others like him, life hasn't been easy (as he points out in the trailer) this massive social media following could prove to be a ticket out of the rural, dead-end life in Tennessee and into one of wealth and fame.
Mandelup's feature first made its world premiere earlier this year at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it went on to win the Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker.
The 1-hour 39-minute documentary takes a fresh look at the live-broadcast age, a digital phenomenon where streamers can not only watch and get inspired but also engage with those who steal their hearts.
'Jawline' also explores the question of what happens after a famous teenager no longer remains a teenager. By documenting the highs and lows of social media stars, managers and admirers, 'Jawline' digs deeper into the rise of a social media personality.
In an interview, Mandelup explains the idea behind the documentary and how the character was more important than Austyn's role. "The idea for the film was about exploring emotions. What’s it like to feel a connection to someone through a screen and how does that play out in real life? I was really interested in what it’s like to feel like you’re in love but know it only exists through this interaction on an app. What’s the moment like when, for the first time, you meet that person in real life? I wanted to tell a story in that space. This is how my process is; I always start with a feeling and a world and then I write the story within that. I was never interested in dry facts and statistics. I always wanted to go back to how the teenagers were dealing with things on an emotional level. How are they getting by in this technology-filled landscape?"
The documentary is set to launch on Hulu and in select theaters on August 23, 2019. You can watch the trailer for the documentary here: