fan_girl_kiernan_shipkaYear: 2015
Director: Paul Jarrett
Writer(s): Gina O’Brien
Region of Origin: US
Rating: N/A
Digital, Color, 100 mins

Synopsis: A 15-year-old girl decides to bring her two passions together for her final film project: making movies and her favorite band. (Source)

Having just graduated high school a few years ago, it was a shock to see how much the entire culture had changed while watching Paul Jarrett’s Fan Girl. Cell phones are ubiquitous and social media captures every awkward moment, good and bad! Though I may be falling out of touch with people my age or those a few years younger, what I did appreciate about the film was its genuine heart and soul.

Telulah Farrow (Kiernan Shipka) is a 15-year-old high school student at the brink of getting her short film to play the local high school film festival – she just has to make it first, and only has a few short days to do it! With the help of her friend Jamie (Kara Hayward), Telulah tries to balance a crush on classmate Charlie (Pico Alexander), her troublesome film partner Darvan (Joshua Boone) and her love of pop punk band All Time Low.

For a story that’s heavily centered around a girl’s love for music (and it’s emo idols), the film has a hard time finding an appropriate rhythm. Gina O’Brien’s generic script continually loses focus from its primary story, which I couldn’t remember after the first half hour. Full of clichés and high school tropes, the movie goes for a Mean Girls or School of Rock type of send up, but mostly gets lost in the process.

If there’s a bright spot, it’s that the cast (especially Shipka) brings undeniable spirit to the proceedings – there are  some great characters and moments that really shine through. Telulah collecting footage of her film throughout are fun. Meg Ryan as her mother impresses and has one of the more interesting plot threads, developing when she reconnects with an old flame, who, of course she shares a joint with. Scott Adsit, as the over-excited film teacher Paul, steals every single scene he’s in. He is a comic genius in a sea of people who for the most part know they’re funny, bur are never quite fit into the film’s framework. It’s also cool to see Moonrise Kingdom’s Kara Hayward as Jamie, who has excellent chemistry with Shipka and quirky deadpan delivery. But amidst all of these characters is Joshua Boone’s Darvan, who’s so annoying be the time the film ends, he never amounts to anything more than a caricature.

There are many great ideas in Fan Girl, but they all need to be polished up, tightened and connected better. Thankfully, the film knows the value of its greatest asset, Shipka’s Telulah, who is also the most likable character in a sea of performances ranging from overly dramatic to confused and out of place – actually, that sounds just like high school I suppose.