This review was originally published on January 21, 2012…
I am having a really, really hard time writing this review. Why? Because writer/director Destin Cretton’s film “I Am Not a Hipster” not only completely confounded my expectations of what the film is about (in a good way), it moved me, made me laugh, made me think and has an amazing performance by actor and musician Dominic Bogart that, honestly, blew me away. As a critic, I never try to go too crazy on a review, lavishing on praise that might die away a few days later. But I saw the film last night, couldn’t write the review then, thought about it for hours and even slept on it and here I am, ready to scream from the rooftops how good this little indie film is.
On the surface and in descriptions, “I Am Not a Hipster” is about a talented yet “tortured” musician named Brook (Bogart) who, when not creating songs that move people to the point of instantly idolizing him, is busy being a total a*****e as often as he can. And that description is true. But when coupled with the film title (which absolutely has to change before the film sees release), my hackles were raised going in as I expected some masturbatory exercise in what it means “to be an artist.” This film is not that.
Well, not entirely. It does examine how tough it can be to create because let’s be honest, to have the courage to put something into the world requires some pain and suffering and in order to express yourself, you kind of have to be sensitive and have deep feelings. But “I Am Not a Hipster” just tacks those ideas onto a complex character who through all his flaws, you want to see succeed.
While Brook is indeed somewhat of a bastard, he’s also incredibly talented (he sings and performs throughout the film), but he’s also a multi-dimensional character. Cretton does a fairly amazing job fleshing out this guy who, one minute is pouring out tears as he watches a tsunami destroy a village and the next railing against the new breed of internet inspired artists who are having fun and expressing themselves but somehow stepping on his artistic toes. But Brett has another side as well and that comes out as his three lovely sisters Joy, Spring and Merrily (Minoff, Coleman, Erickson) arrive with their aloof dad (Harding) to spread the ashes of their recently deceased mother off the shore of a San Diego beach. We learn more about Brook through his sisters and discover he’s actually kind of a great guy who just feels things deeply and has trouble understanding the world he lives in. They try to help him and their love for one another grounds the film and gives it heart.
Describing “I Am Not a Hipster” as I’ve just done simply doesn’t do it justice because the filmmaking on display here is so solid and sneaky. Cretton is a writer/director who I look forward to seeing more from. He doesn’t get fancy but adds simple touches of artistry that resound in a scene alongside the images and script like a great band at the top of their game. I also love that the film takes place in San Diego which is a vibrant, artistic community that never gets the respect it’s deserved. But the real star here is Dominic Bogart who is at once wickedly mean and then seconds later, tearfully regretful. I loved this film and there was hardly a dry eye in the house by the time Brook’s journey onscreen is complete.
“I Am Not a Hipster” is the kind of film you want to see again and for as deep and personal as it feels, it’s also highly entertaining and quite funny as well.