Valery Todorovsky’s “Hipsters” is billed as the first Russian musical film in over 50 years. Set in 1955, the film follows a humorless Komsomol member Mels (Antonin Shagin) as he drifts from the dreary Soviet system into a vibrant subculture influenced by American-style culture. In a ridiculously short time, Mels is dancing like an expert, playing a hot saxophone and enjoying romance with hot Polly (Oksana Akinshina). Needless to say, Mels’ rebellion comes with a price. Or as Yakov Smirnoff would say: in Soviet Russia, party finds you!
Shagin and Akinshina are an attractive couple, and they bring the film a thrust of charisma that keeps the viewer’s attention. The film’s production design is also witty, with both the grayness of Soviet conformity and the outlandishness of the rebellious hipsters exaggerated with cartoonish surrealism.
Alas, the film trips over its dancing feet. To be cruel, the musical score is forgettable and the choreography is not special – and quite frankly, the musical interludes tend to disrupt the film’s story rather than enhance it. Perhaps the film may have worked better if the characters did not abruptly break into song and dance – as it stands, it is more than a little out of tune.