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Destin Daniel Cretton
Brad William Henke,
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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