|Index||5 reviews in total|
Writer/Director Destin Daniel Cretton won the Jury Prize at the 2009
Sundance Film Festival for his short film Short Term 12. This year he's
back with an incredibly moving debut feature entitled I AM NOT A
HIPSTER. This film is a quasi-musical with an existential core. Brook
is a young singer/songwriter who has become a local legend in the San
Diego indie scene after releasing his debut album. The problem is he
wants nothing to do with it, becoming a well renowned artist was never
part of his plan. For him music is essentially a means of therapy.
Music is the channel though which Brook coups with the crisis he faces
in his life, namely the death of his mother. He maintains himself
isolated from most of his peers through his aggressive and egotistic
attitude which pretty much guarantees to destroy his own career. Even
his best friend Clark will end a phone call with a hilarious "I love
you!" but Brook does not reciprocate.
Hope arrives in the form of Brooke's three sisters. Their joyful and exuberant spirits are the remedy to his bitterness and apathy. Cretton does an excellent job at allowing for these characters to interact with effortless fluidity. It is through the interactions with his sisters that the audience can peel back on the layers of Brooke's grief. The death of his mother and his sort of newly found fame leads Brook to question the very meaning of life and art. He spends his time looking at "Youtube" videos of the Tsunami in Japan, which lead him to tears. When one of his sisters asks what's the matter he sobs and says: "I just realized how f*** lonely I am". Brooke slowly begins to discover that the very thing he has isolated himself from is the very thing he needs; community. And it is through music that he begins to find redemption.
The film does an excellent job a peering into the soul of an artist and his work. We see Brooke laying down some tracks on his computer one by one. First we'll see some sleigh bells, then some drum toms, then an acoustic guitar riff, then some "Whooaaa". Without the context of the complete song these recordings make no sense. We have no idea what the author, Brook, is up to. But, when the audience finally listens to the finished song we can enjoy it. The completed piece is even greater than the sum of its parts. And so this is what I AM A NOT HIPSTER is about. Sometimes we go through life and experience things that don't make sense, no rhyme, no reason. We trust that eventually all the song parts; our friends, our family, our mistakes, our fame, and our art will come together and the song we'll here in the end will blow our minds.
I Am Not a Hipster (2012)
The steady, confident, photographically brilliant telling of a talented young grunge rock musician out of step with the world over the course of an eventful week in San Diego.
Here is low budget filmmaking at its serious best. There is no attempt here to be outrageous or experimental, nor is there that common tendency to emphasize the ultra-ordinary. The leading character, as a young man struggling to find personal meaning for his life, is compelling and complex. He has clear abilities as a singer songwriter (and actor Dominic Bogart plays and sings all his scenes). He has a following, a successful debut record. But he has such disdain for the superficial--which naturally surrounds him completely in contemporary young America--he feels himself drowning.
Add the fact that his mother died two years earlier and his family is converging on San Diego to put her ashes to rest and you have a moment of crisis.
Things are writ small here. The characters are convincing, sometimes downright lovable types. The scenes tumble forward with a sweet inevitability. The hand-held camera-work is nothing if not planned and exacting in all its apparent looseness, which makes these seemingly spontaneous and normal situations aesthetically tight. You can feel while watching that this is a beautifully rendered story. The rendering--the visuals, the editing--is a huge part of its success.
As is Bogart's striking performance. What an easy part to blow, by either underplaying it to the point of drabness or overplaying it in a million ways. And Bogart finds a balance in his inner malaise to be tormented without excess, to be someone we identify with, which is key even if we aren't going to be rock stars.
The hard part to watching this movie is finding it. I saw it at a film festival (the terrific Woodstock Film Festival) and two of the actors talked briefly afterwards, reminding us how down to earth the production was, shot in 19 days on a small budget with mostly available light and apparently with a RED digital camera. It reminds me of how Hollywood used to crank out movies in a week or two routinely, and how a handful of those really clicked just through a combination of good story, good crew, good cast.
And good director. Destin Cretton (who also wrote the story) pulls it off beautifully. If this scene and this style are at all up your alley, I say this movie is highly recommended, not to be missed.
Having followed the film career of Destin Daniel Cretton before his hit short film "Short Term 12" at Sundance (now an award-winning feature film), I can say this first feature is an absolute pleasure (from the standpoint that it is really strong, well-written and performed, and evokes a distinct tone and voice). The title is such that it brings about certain expectations before watching the film...these expectations are then totally shattered. While set in the indie music/hipster culture of San Diego, the film does not spend its time finding ways to poke fun at its characters (there are a couple of jokes about cell phone photography and fixie bikes). The title is in this way ill-fitted, but at the same time perfect as it prepares the viewer to be completely surprised by the film's sincere and emotional journey of the protagonist, Brooke, as he tries to be less pessimistic to find some silver linings in his relationships, understand the parameters of artistic expression as a singer/songwriter, and just in general be more of a true- to-yourself individual (that is more genuine than a hipster-yes, the title has relevance!). In short, the film is a great character study on our relationships with others and highlights this with a fantastic original score and songs by Joel P. West (The Tree Ring).
I had the opportunity to catch this great film at Little Rock Film
Festival. Knowing nothing about it going in except the baggage I bring
to bear by the term "hipster", I didn't know what to expect. Suffice it
to say, I find myself floating in the film's emotional wake days after
watching it, in the best of ways. The main character's story is a
universal but specific one that resonated with me personally because of
the struggle of the main character Brook: existential self-questioning
in the face of loss, wrapped up in the contemporary indie art/music
scene. I think everyone can relate, and because of the very realistic
acting, I think everyone could go on Brook's journey and wonder: does
this all matter?
The film was a fully professional production in every way, creatively and technically, so I felt that I was in safe hands throughout and could just go along for the emotional journey of the film without distraction. Brook is actively rejecting his friends and loved ones, so feeling disconnected from him at times is understandable, but because I knew he was looking for connection deep down, I was always on board with him and fighting for him. The film taught me that "hipster" is an overused and misapplied label used to marginalize a class of people to which I seem to very much relate but have up till now dismissed. But moreover and more importantly, it seemed to honestly and fully capture that limbo where we can sit, depressed and dismissive, self-pitying, between love and disconnection, experienced through the laughs (Clarke was hilarious) and tears (thanks to terrific support by the three sister characters). Not to mention that the music was awesome and I can't wait to get the album.
"I Am Not a Hipster" is a genuine, well-crafted, multi-textured, dynamically emotional film experience with an outstanding soundtrack and terrific performances all around. I could feel the love. Highly recommended.
I Am Not a Hipster has the premise and feel of a really great
mumblecore film by the works of the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, or
even the proclaimed "godfather" of the cinematic movement, Andrew
Bujalski. Its intimate angles, character study-formula, and focus on
those who are living on the outside shunning away what's on the
"inside" already give it the structure and built of one. The issues I,
personally, have is that just when the film begins to transcend from
indie drama to mumblecore film is when it takes the method of being
more of an anti-character study with an anti-hero at the center of its
story that, by the end, I simply couldn't root for, which defies the
entire idea of an anti-hero character.
Yet there are some very strong things about this picture that one can not ignore. It concerns Dominic Bogart's Brook, a San Diego-based independent rock musician, living day-in-and-day-out, usually behind his computer watching videos of the tsunami that devastated Japan or sitting behind his guitar, strumming out some tunes to pass the time. One quality Brook unfortunately possesses is his inability to connect with anyone on a personal level, and go through life accepting a compliment or a kind gesture without some sort of speculation that this is a personal attack on him in some way.
One day, his three charming, beautiful sisters show up, (Tammy Minoff, Lauren Coleman, and Kandis Erickson), and scold him for not returning their phone calls and acting invisible for the last few months. It is then we learn that some of Brook's inner sadness is channeled from the death of his mother, and how his relationship with his father was tested to the point of breaking upon her death. Now he is completely over it, assuming a life of no true family responsibility as he aimlessly slogs through a music career he doesn't seem to want and underground fame which he doesn't seem to appreciate.
Although Brook is a miserable, somewhat irredeemable sad-sack of a character for ninety minutes, he plays some damn good music, and this is seen sporadically as he often picks up his guitar and doesn't hesitate to crank out a nicely subdued melody. It is here when the film reminds me of the detail and crafty musical numbers in Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation, yet what winds up breaking I Am Not a Hipster is its lead characters' lack of maturity or inner-progression throughout the entire film. We see him go from miserable and ungrateful to only slightly less miserable and ungrateful by the end. He is manipulative, overbearing, and his difficultly expressing himself to his family members appears to stem more from choice rather than inherent disconnect. Where mumblecore films would tend to go for a bigger picture look at the problem of the character at the center, I Am Not a Hipster stays too confined to its own directionless material, rarely breaking out passed its lone character who isn't completely compelling. Not to mention, in the enormous town of San Diego, which is undoubtedly littered with underground musicians, whether they be discovered or remain deep below the dirt, most likely have more to offer than the ungrateful Brook at the center of this melodramatic exercise.
It consistently is potent in its rich style and continuing pursuit of its lead character through thick and thin, which is nice, proving that director Destin Cretton refuses to break away from his troubles, yet this is standard indie fare in terms of being discovered at the same time not quite. When it comes to detailing a similar story of family disconnect, much more was accomplished efficiently in the Duplass brothers' The Do-Deca Pentathlon, which when released in limited theaters and video on demand last year obtained hardly any viewership. I Am Not a Hipster excels by casting presentable and reliable leads in difficult roles. It fails by humanizing those roles into characters that pass the line of tolerance.
And it's not a big deal to me that Brook doesn't feel that he is a hipster, but I have news for his sister, who enjoys sucking on an unlit cigarette out on the sidewalk because she "likes the taste." She is most definitely a hipster. That goes without saying.
Starring: Dominic Bogart, Alvaro Orlando, Tammy Minoff, Lauren Coleman, and Kandis Erickson. Directed by: Destin Cretton.
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