The Nowhere Inn will be a must watch
THE NOWHERE INN (2021)
While I’m not an uber fan of St. Vincent or Carrie Brownstein, I am a casual fan and was excited for The Nowhere Inn. The “documentary” looked trippy and interesting. I expected a very St. Vincent esque vibe to the movie and was eager to see how she crafted a sneak peak into her life. Plus I was hoping to get to hear some of her popular songs and possibly see some new performances.
It made sense that Bill Benz would direct The Nowhere Inn. He was a director on Portlandia, the television series that Carrie Brownstein was a co-developer on as well as an actor and writer. Benz’s style would lend itself well to any story that Brownstein and St. Vincent dreamed up. On the surface it seems like a match made in heaven, and to some extent it is. Benz gives it his all and crafts a very unusual and zany atmosphere throughout the movie. It is off putting and keeps you off balance. It really felt like a longer, more drawn out episode of Portlandia. Benz didn’t do anything crazy besides making a musical performance of St. Vincent’s seem like a psychedelic illusion. Overall, a solid effort but nothing we haven’t seen from Benz before.
The plot of The Nowhere Inn is very meta, to the point of even losing track of what it’s trying to say. St. Vincent hires Brownstein to direct a documentary about her life as an artist. But it turns out that St. Vincent’s persona off stage is, quite frankly, boring. Brownstein struggles to find things to film and even St. Vincent’s band mates can’t seem to come up with any interesting facts about the artist. Brownstein complains about this to St. Vincent, which causes her to spiral into self-doubt. She then transitions into being St. Vincent off stage as well as on stage. She becomes a diva who speaks her mind and acts odd at all times. This causes a rift between her and Brownstein as Brownstein struggles with her own issues and feels like she is losing a friend. The beginning seems like it might be a mockumentary, which could have been very fun to see Brownstein and St. Vincent play off each other. But then The Nowhere Inn drifts into another dimension entirely and goes into another layer of meta where you aren’t sure what each person is doing and how they are perceiving the documentary they’re knowingly in. It was a fun angle that definitely differed from typical music docs, but it didn’t quite hit as well as I would have liked.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein carry much of the movie. It centers on St. Vincent of course but has a few moments with Brownstein worrying about her career and being confused as to what’s happening to her friend. St. Vincent does extremely well here, becoming a nerdy version of herself and then transitioning into the more compelling persona she has developed for on stage performances. She proves she has acting chops and I’d be interested to see her in another movie where she doesn’t necessarily play herself. Carrie is reliable as usual but gets overshadowed alongside St. Vincent. The acting carries much of the movie and challenges the idea that music documentaries are ever authentic.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The only real visual effects come during the recording of St. Vincent’s performances. Benz uses some unique camera angles and the effects team does some cool work to make the performances interesting. The onstage costuming for St. Vincent is her trademark look and so of course the outfits are phenomenal. The opening scene where St. Vincent is in the back of a limo has a wonderful almost 1950’s aesthetic that was fun. St. Vincent proves she can slide effortlessly into any environment and excel.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
If you’re a St. Vincent fan then you will love the music in The Nowhere Inn. The movie is interspersed with performances by St. Vincent and showcase how strong of a performer she is. If you aren’t a St. Vincent fan, then the music won’t be for you. It was refreshing to see some solid performances from her, and it will make you want to see her perform live to get the full experience.
The Nowhere Inn is a meta documentary that calls into question how authentic music docs can actually be. It also pokes fun at the genre in general, being self-aware to the absurdity of these “documentaries.” The performances from St. Vincent throughout the movie are fantastic and you get to hear a few songs that fans will enjoy. St. Vincent is deeply private and not much is known about who she actually is. The Nowhere Inn acknowledges that and continues the trend of keeping St. Vincent (AKA Annie Clark) mysterious. Fans hoping to get a glimpse into the life of the enigmatic performer will be disappointed, as The Nowhere Inn subverts music documentary styles and shows you very little of who Clark is as a person. It cements her status as a bonafide actor and blurs the lines of what you think you know about her. It only floundered when it got muddled as to the message and tried to be too complex for its own good. For fans of St. Vincent however, The Nowhere Inn will be a must watch.