“Jawline” is the story of how one young man’s wish can quickly spiral into a social media catastrophe of epic proportions.
The documentary, directed by Liza Mandelup, tells the story of Austyn Tester, a 16-year old from Tennessee with big dreams of becoming a “social media influencer.” The film also features Michael Weist, opposite of Tester and manager/agent to Los Angeles clients. The film goes through the story of how Tester actually becomes like one of the social media influencers he so desperately wants to become but ultimately, things are not what they seem.
The film does what good documentary does best: it gives us a hero and a villain. Tester is the quintessential “person to root for.” He has high hopes of things that are put up by the film makers as things that will never happen. As the film unfolds the story through various vignettes, sympathetic stories about Tester are told. We get stories from his older brother who is decidedly “redneck,” who “just wants his brother to succeed at any cost.” It’s a technique common to many documentaries. Documentaries don’t have a narrative fiction to display so documentaries have to create their own stories by juxtaposing elements.
The film’s “villain” is in the form of Weist. He’s very much a conman, a scam artist, a veritable Harold Hill. Throughout the film, he purports that he makes an extravagant amount of money but yet he spends this money on purely aesthetic things like jewelry or lavish clothes. He’s exactly the type of person who would fall for the sort of manipulation that the filmmakers have put on to show exactly how evil the underworld of social media influencers really is.
Weist initially has no actual connection with Tester, even though they both are natives of Tennessee, but once Weist gets his claws in Tester, the social media manager goes at the social media client. Weist has a habit of berating his clients on the most trivial things. He disapproves of their word choices, their accent, the way they act in front of fans even when they are acting like themselves. The filmmakers clearly had some agenda when making this film and that was “make Weist look bad.” That’s not to say that he doesn’t deserve the negative treatment. He’s a genuinely skeevy person and it’s probably good that his bad business has been revealed.
However, the documentary’s director and crew are not all saints. They gave Weist a platform to spout his nonsense and his side of the story but did not give much credence to the clients he has represented, namely the subjects of Weist’s five-million-dollar lawsuit against them. The film doesn’t really show us what those people think of Weist or really get to know them at all. If Weist is to be believed, before the events of the documentary, he probably had many clients all of which most likely received poor treatment.
Like most documentaries, “Jawline” shows us something new: a foray into a universe that most of us probably don’t have much idea about, the universe where the surface level is all we really see. “Jawline” receives a B-plus rating.