“I Am Not A Hipster” opens with indie rock darling Brooke Hyde (Dominic Bogart) bailing on the opening number of his show to puke up his one-too-many whiskey shots in the bathroom of the local venue, stranding his band onstage. Clearly this guy, while talented (from the little bit we get to hear of his song), is not just troubled, he’s in a really bad place, a place beyond just the inner recesses of the local dive’s porcelain.
Despite it’s too clever title, “I Am Not A Hipster” is more than just a lampooning of the hipster scene of Anywhere, USA, which in this case is San Diego. It’s a deep dive into the effects of grief on the creative process, on the strength of family ties and how easily they can be lost, and what it can mean to be recognized for your work. These are all things that Brooke, our protagonist, has to grapple with during the course of the film. He’s a moderately successful musician who’s gained cult status for his album, Canines, but he doesn’t know how to deal with it, how to be “cool” or even nice to anyone, or how to take a compliment, never mind radio interviews or parties, where he becomes instantly hostile. He drinks too much, lashes out at those who care about him, and doesn’t seem to have a real connection to anyone. He doesn’t check his voicemail and he doesn’t seem to care, despite how talented he is or how beloved his music might be.
That all changes when one hungover morning, three young ladies sneak into his house to startle him awake, snuggle him, and make him omelets. Yes, they’re his three sisters, and they’re here to spread his mother’s ashes. Turns out that two years ago, instead of driving to her funeral, Brooke drove to San Diego, where he recorded his album instead of facing his family and his grief. With his sisters, we grow to like Brooke, as they are loving and affectionate, and because they love him, we love him too. Even when he’s horrible to those around him, when he lashes out in anger or frustration, his sisters pick him up, dust him off, and sing him to sleep with a mandolin tune. “I Am Not A Hipster”? We were not expecting this to become a family melodrama.
As Brooke, Bogart gives a stunning performance: raw, and real and completely unvarnished as the sad, grieving asshole who tries and tries again to disappear into his music. As the sisters, Tammy Minoff, musician Lauren Coleman, and Kandis Erickson are utterly winning; funny, fierce, and some of the most realistic sisters depicted in a film. As Brooke’s “manager”, Clarke, Alvaro Orlando is the comic relief of the film, and the most entertaining character onscreen, but he transcends his role as the silly scenester to act as a foil to Brooke’s draconian moral requirements on creativity and art. He’s one of the most charming parts of ‘Hipster,’ and we can’t wait to see him onscreen next.
The film is expertly, and beautifully, shot in deep grainy handheld by Brett Pawlak, and the original songs, written by Joel P. West, are excellent. Writer/director Destin Cretton shows a sure hand in taking on this sensitive material, capturing the perfect mix of comedy and melodrama that is always the case in dealing with families, loss, and love. “I Am Not A Hipster” is a tender, beautiful film that eloquently captures the complexities of creativity within those darker moments of life, and the beauty that can come from connecting with those you love. This film is too delightfully earnest and honest to be too overbearingly hip. [A-]
“I Am Not A Hipster” is in select theaters, as well as On Demand via cable, iTunes, Amazon, etc. Check out the trailer here.