Aug 27, 2019

Learn about teens, tweens, and social media in a doc worth seeing.


Grade: B

Director: Liz Mandelup

Screenplay: Documentary

Cast: Austyn Tester, Michael Weist

Rating: NR

Runtime: 1 hr 39 min

By: John DeSando

 “I’m my own boss, my own editor, my own shooter, my own writer, everything. This is all stuff I learned through trial and error… failing at a lot of things has taught me how to succeed at them eventually… you roll with the punches.”  Lily Singh, influencer

It doesn’t take much to be cynical about the instant fame of broadcast influencers like the protagonist of the powerful, perceptive, and sometimes depressing documentary Jawline, directed with insight and care by Liz Mandelup. Austin Tester, a 16-year-old Tennessee social media personality, is struggling to keep the thousands of fans who connect with him online.

In the four or so years chronicled by this objective and compassionate doc, Austin goes from the high of being recognized and rushed by scores of teens and tweens whenever he appears in public to scrounging for “likes.”

Handsome he is, not as articulate or charismatic as my friend Derek, whose fans get more wit than they deserve. D has got talent.

While Austyn seems to decline in hits and energy as well as high school credit, he stays dedicated to his craft of expressing positivity, as his manager, barely older, demands he do all the time.  Hovering around is the distant smell of failure, if not now but inevitably, for the competition is just as fierce as in entertainment in general, and Austyn is just not that talented.

Making it here and anywhere is not a given. For Sinatra it always was, but that was a talent given by the gods.

See Jawline if you want to experience teen passion in an audience that similarly adored Frank. If like me you can stand only so many wasteful words like “like,” then start your own YouTube channel and see how few “like” you. It’s rough out there.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at