September 16, 2021

SCREEN | St. Vincent Tours 'The Nowhere Inn'

"Your life isn't crazy or interesting enough to make a documentary about."
Dakota Johnson St. Vincent Carrie Brownstein Bill Benz | The Nowhere Inn
IFC Films / Topic Studios
Musician Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) and fellow singer/actress Carrie Brownstein, both playing themselves, offer a fictionalized attempt on documenting Clark's career in the Lynchian music mockumentary, The Nowhere Inn. Structured like a typical rock documentary following an artist on tour, the very much scripted film (co-written by the duo) blends together concert footage with fake behind-the-scenes sequences and talking-head interviews as supposedly helmed by Brownstein who stands in as the director of the film-within-a-film.

Television comedy director Bill Benz (the film's actual director) follows the authorized music doc format where the superficial aim is to seem intimate and revealing in a way that shows the musician exactly how they want to be seen without saying anything substantial as to keep their mysterious allure through the appearance of substance. Early on, we're told the film, shot during the Masseduction tour, was never finished. So what we're actually watching is not the original concept as they discuss what went wrong. It's a little high-concept for a simple satire about musicians sending themselves up.

Despite some fun, including an extended cameo by the always delightful Dakota Johnson also playing herself but as Clark's sexy girlfriend here, The Nowhere Inn kind of reveals Clark's persona backstage isn't nearly as interesting or magnetic as St. Vincent is on stage. That may be perfectly okay in real life but on screen, it makes for a flat faux documentary that's much more intriguing in conception than in execution. It makes for more of a stylized video collage about Clark as a regular person than anything.

It seems everyone involved in The Nowhere Inn had lofty ideas about what their surreal meta-comedy was going to be about in terms of fame and identity. Audiences are made so aware that everything we're seeing is clearly "fake" or unreal and scripted, it kind of flattens any jokes about the constructed reality of Clark's stage presence as St. Vincent. We both see too much of the real rock star and not nearly enough of who the character she's playing is, regardless of any basis on her actual personality.

The Nowhere Inn is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand.

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