Fan Girl is a coming of age comedy about a high school girl whose obsessions for an alternative rock band and filmmaking take her on a soul-searching adventure through the life of a millennial.
Tellulah Farrow is played by the lovable Kiernan Shipka, who audiences will recognize as the daughter of Mad Men’s Don and Betty Draper now all grown up. Along with her best friend Jamie, played by Kara Hayward (Moonrise Kingdom), Tellulah is your quintessential high school girl whose teenage angst and expression of individuality are paramount to her academic concerns, and her biggest obstacle is not getting caught for wearing a dress too short in school.
These pitfalls take a backseat when she is assigned a film project, the winner of which will be screened at a local film festival. Coupled with the fact that her favorite band is coming to town, real life emo band All Time Low, Tellulah finds herself on a crash course through awkward post-adolescent high jinks. All the while, her single mother, played by an ageless Meg Ryan, is going through her own set of coming of age tropes, as she is beginning to date again, taking her outside of her adult comfort zone.
Shipka is a proven young talent and certainly one to watch, but even she can’t carry this film. First time director Paul Jarrett made a film that has little to no personality given the unique characters on screen. It lacks the charm of Clueless or the wittiness of Mean Girls to help set it apart. Early on in the film I questioned if it might have been an unfinished film since there were awkward cuts and a lack of music or sound to help guide the ambling narrative. Granted, it was an LA Film Festival cut that I watched so perhaps there will still be some polishes still to be made.
Often times I found myself taken out of the story by the choices made behind the camera, which made for a difficult viewing experience. Some of the best scenes are those in which Tellulah’s film teacher, played by Scott Adsit (30 Rock), teaches the class while walking across desks in his classroom. It was an interesting choice that paid off by giving those scenes an authentic charm and original feel, while the rest of the film felt incoherently patched together.
At the end of the day, fans of the band All Time Low will be excited to see them in a film. And if anything else, the film showcases a young rising talent in Kiernan Shipka.