This Russian musical romance is wild, weird, beautifully shot, and ultimately kind of confounding...
Kino / 125 Minutes / 2008 / Unrated / Street Date: February 19, 2013
With its DayGlo shine and Glee-esque musical vivacity, Hipsters is a movie that desperately wants to win you over. This neon glowstick of a movie pulls out all the stops in terms of bright costumes, flashy musical choreography, and the bright, shining allure of young love in an attempt to fuse Grease and Swing Kids in its tale of peaceful youthful insurrection in a stoic, tyrannical society.
Our backdrop is mid-1950s Cold War Moscow, and kids are supposed to dress unassumingly and pretty much speak only when spoken to. Young Mels (Anton Shagin) thinks he can stick to this way of things… until he meets Polly (Eugenia Khirivskaya), and all hopes of sturdy Soviet service goes out the window. This cute young thing introduces him to jazz, to multi-colored clothing, and a heavily-attended-to pompadour that wouldn’t seem out of place in John Waters’ Hairspray.
Entry into Hipsters is easy – its dramatic rhetoric is totally appealing – but it loses its impact after its first reel. The production design and overall feel of the film is wonderfully vivid and engaging, but structurally, the thing is all over the place, with its lineup of characters unfortunately falling victim to caricature thinness. Hipsters is without question a unique achievement, but one can’t shake the feeling that the whippersnappers on screen are having significantly more fun singing and dancing than a viewer is watching them do so.