Hipsters aren’t going away

And neither are movies about them. Fort Tilden doesn’t revolutionize this brand of satire, but it does a pretty good job.




The whole Williamsburg hipster / trust funder / entitled millennial satire thing has been done to death by now through shows like Girls and Broad City and films like The Comedy or While We’re Young — I sincerely do not believe that there’s much juice to wring out of entitled Jersey girls in big hats and rompers and dudes in V-necks who are all about SEO and juicing. The problem with this is that they’re not going away; if anything, what seemed like a risible subculture 10 years ago has basically become the dominant youth culture of North America. This makes it difficult to make a film about young people without going over well-worn territory at least a little bit. Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers’ Fort Tilden doesn’t exactly revolutionize the formula or find new ways to take potshots at entitlement, but it’s pretty good at doing the familiar.

Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) are roommates and BFFs living in Brooklyn. Harper is an artist whose entire life is bankrolled by a father she barely sees, while Allie is on the verge of making a huge life change by joining the Peace Corps and going to Liberia. At at a rooftop party, they meet a couple of dudes (Jeffrey Scaperrotta and Griffin Newman) who are planning to go to the beach in the remote neighbourhood of Fort Tilden the next day, so Harper and Allie invite themselves along despite the fact that Allie is supposed to meet with someone from the Peace Corps that day. The trip to the faraway lands of Queens is fraught with disaster as their ‘so nice’ bike ride turns into an endurance test.


Almost everything I’ve read about Fort Tilden since it premiered at SXSW has pointed out that the main characters are insufferable, as if this were not the explicit point that Fort Tilden is trying to make. Allie and Harper choose vacuous and insufferable as a kind of armour against maturity. Whenever they’re faced with a problem (like when Harper lightly clips a stroller, causing the furious meltdown of a yuppie mom played by Orange Is the New Black’s Alyssa Reiner, or when they find a bunch of abandoned kittens by the beach), their instinct is to run. They escape problems by pretending to be above them, but that doesn’t make the problems go away. I’d argue this is true of pretty much every other ‘hipster satire’ out there — insufferable shouldn’t (and generally doesn’t) mean unrelatable.

In fact, Fort Tilden has some of the more relatable annoying characters in this genre. Part of its appeal comes from how relatively grounded the characters are in their own worlds — it would be easy to make them overt caricatures of millennial incompetence (you know, have them be performance artists who wear leotards and cover iPads in Nutella or some shit), but they’re relatively adept at existing in the world. Fort Tilden winds up being more about generational malaise and indecision than pointing fingers and laughing.

None of this changes the fact that Fort Tilden is swimming in already overpopulated waters. It’s funny and smart about its characters, but it’s still the kind of movie that uses the Upper West Side and iced coffee as punchlines. That Bliss and Rogers managed to avoid making another empty jab at millennials is commendable, but it’s still a familiar-looking fish in a sea of familiar-looking fishes. ■

Fort Tilden opens at the Cineplex Forum Cinema (2313 Ste-Catherine W.) on Friday, Aug. 21. Watch the trailer: