Jawline, directed by Lisa Mandelup, is a new documentary about the digital world, something which seems to be growing in size each and every day. Unfortunately, the film fails to provide any insightful commentary on the issues involved with this group of people, instead simply telling their story in a way that isn’t particularly compelling.
The movie follows a sixteen year-old boy from rural Tennessee who hopes to make it big by becoming a star in the social media live broadcasting world. Although live streaming has become a very popular fad, the idea that people actually try to make careers out of it is pretty shocking and unusual, and that should lend itself to an interesting documentary about the ways in which aspirations are changing in this digital age.
The disappointing thing about this film, though, is that it manages to talk about some of the social implications of the world without really discussing them. One of the most interesting moments in the documentary is towards the end, when the subject and his mother are discussing how his attempts to rise to stardom have affected his performance in school. Had the whole movie been like this (preferably even a bit deeper), it could have been really interesting.
Instead, we are left with a film that basically follows the subject around as he tours. The biggest question people will likely be left asking after watching this movie is why in the world someone would be willing to pay money to see a “social media star” in person, and the answer is that the youth have gone crazy. The same teen girls who would flock to see the subject on tour are the people who will love this documentary.
The film isn’t even able to develop the subject of the movie in a way that has particular depth or nuance. Although the aspirations he has are definitely admirable, the film doesn’t explore this rags-to-riches story with the depth that it should. In fact, the manager of the subject has a much more interesting story than the subject himself.
Because it is so hard to connect with the subject of the movie, the film doesn’t hit the emotional beats as it hopes. We are supposed to feel bad for the subject that he is stuck in this cycle, and even though we admire that he is trying to do something about it, he still comes off as somewhat entitled and arrogant, particularly towards the end of the movie.
On a technical level, the film is actually very strong. The visuals are really good, as is the score, which is wonderful. Thankfully, Mandelup didn’t resort to using gimmicks as most documentaries about “modern” topics like this usually do, and instead crafts a documentary that is gorgeous to look at, and will hook you into the movie even though the story isn’t that interesting.
While this film will surely catch on with its target audience of teenagers who spend a majority of their free time on social media, the story of Jawline just isn’t compelling enough to warrant a watch from most other people. There is some potential in this movie — it just isn’t realized.
Jawline hits theaters and Hulu on August 23.