Based on the title and Sundance 2012 program description, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this film. Full disclosure, I was pretty sure I was going to hate it, mainly because I, too, Am Not a Hipster (hint). But an unexpected thing happened part way through: My heart started pounding, and I realized that I was anxious for the characters and their situation. And later, when I teared up, I had to give up on my aspirations of being an eye-rolling naysayer…

The Players:

  • Director/Screenwriter: Destin Daniel Cretton
  • Cast: Dominic Bogart, Alvaro Orlando, Brad William Henke, Tammy Minoff, Kandis Erickson, Lauren Coleman
  • Music: Joel P. West

Synopsis:

The protagonist, Brook, is a popular, but depressed San Diego musician dealing with the passing of his mother some months before.  Wary and disinterested in success or fame, he thwarts the efforts of his well-meaning best friend and is a bona fide, disaffected asshole to the people around him.

When his three sisters and father show up on his doorstep to spread their mother’s ashes, Brook is pushed to his emotional breaking point. Lashing out at everyone with a holier-than-thou pretension, cruel japes, and even with his fists, Brook’s sole redeeming factor is the side of him that comes out when he’s with his loving and adorable Midwestern sisters.

The Good:

“Hipster Culture” is a tricky subject because one of its central themes is an identification with the idea of being counter-culture. So, naming the phenomenon and categorizing it as a subculture is self-defeating. Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that we have accepted a working definition of the term “hipster” and associate it with certain negative connotations. And all those negative connotations you can think of when you hear “hipster” completely apply to Brook. So what saves him as a character? How can you like him or care what happens to him?

Dominic Bogart manages to pull off Brook’s ennui without it being whiny.  This film is not a pity party. Instead of dwelling on his “hipsterdom”, the film explores why he is so depressed. You find yourself empathizing with him, as deplorable as he has been, because in truth, he is not disaffected nor disinterested. He is deeply affected by loss and loneliness.

The Bad:

I really enjoyed the dynamic of Brook with his caring, quirky, lovable sisters. I would have liked to spend more time with them in the film. Their relationship with him and with each other could have felt more developed. Also, I was expecting more of a resolution with his estranged father.

Overall:

This film is well written and well executed by a talented cast. It has a great original soundtrack by Joel P. West, and some moving musical performances. This is a funny and touching character study that turns your preconceived notions of what it means to be a hipster upside down.

Rating: 7/10