I Am Not a Hipster has a lot of heart, and for better or for worse, the lead character wears it on his sleeve the entire time.
I Am Not a Hipster
Director Destin Cretton won the Short Filmmaking Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival for his short film, Short Term 12. He returns to Sundance in 2012, this time it is for his full-length film I Am Not a Hipster. Following a talented and well-respected indie musician, the film is centered on music but it is equally about coping with the loss of people around you. I Am Not a Hipster has a lot of heart, and for better or for worse, the lead character wears it on his sleeve the entire time.
Brook (Dominic Bogart) is a mildly successful musician to a select number of indie fans in the region of California he resides in. He carries the same sort of relaxed and do-not-care kind of attitude that a lot of indie rockers have these days. A great example of this is when he is practically forced into doing a radio station interview by his manager who is ecstatic about the promotional opportunity. He viewed it as more of an obligation than a rewarding break. Most of his interview questions were responded back to with one-word answers; eventually the DJ covered the mic and pleaded for him to help him out a little. Brook shifted in his chair in obvious uneasiness, continuing to be reserved with answers.
The awkward, yet hilarious, interview helped show just what kind of personality Brook has. The interview also was important as it revealed that his mother had recently passed away. Later in the film, it is discovered that Brook recently broke up with his girlfriend. Those reasons help explain his uninspired and depressed attitude on life at the moment, which in return makes Brook a surly and pretentious character that is not easy to like at first. However, once he becomes fully self-aware that he is depressed and incapable of being happy, sympathy can be finally felt.
Because he is surrounded by such great family and friends that support his every move, both the bad and good ones, he never has to feel the proper consequence of his actions. That makes his character heavily flawed and for the most part, off-putting. Though, it does not mean it is any less honest or candid. It does, however, make you question how such a pompous person would be a good substitute grade school teacher.
Brook’s best friend Clarke (Alvaro Orlando), who also doubles as his manager, is the exact opposite of him. He is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who enters fixed-gear bike races even though he ends up in last place. He is what Brook refers to as a creator of “fluff art” because he would use his phone to take photos of insignificant things and display it as art. Brook eventually realizes what he has become when Clarke finally takes enough abuse and snaps at him for his behavior.
Drawing comparisons to the Oscar winning musical Once, is fairly easy to do as the film also features original music that is performed by the lead actor. The music is not even that far off from each other; both are primary made up of a lo-fi acoustic sound alongside plenty of heart-felt lyrics. One of the biggest difference between the two is the number of musical outbursts, which occur less frequent here.
I Am Not a Hipster is the exact phrase that a stereotypical hipster in denial often proclaims; it is a bizarre paradox that exists to somehow validate the fact someone is actually a hipster. The title is significant because Brook is in denial of his true self and emotions, therefore, until he is able to accept these things, he is doomed for failure. The reason why the film succeeds while similar ones do not (such as The Comedy), is because it does not write off the hero as a hipster who is ungrateful simply because the counter-culture tells him to, the film gives explanations as to why he acts the way he does. The film places emphases on the grieving process which allows the audience to sympathize with the flawed character instead of resenting him.