Saturday, July 13, 2024

Now playing: Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent’s bonkers rock ‘n’ roll satire

The Nowhere Inn is a hilarious, Lynchian trip into the life and mind of Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent, and it’s now playing in theaters and VOD.

If you love the music of St. Vincent, the comic sensibility of Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia), and movies about performance, you’ll be intrigued by The Nowhere Inn. It’s not a documentary, a mockumentary or a rockumentary, but it draws liberally on the tropes of all three forms while creating something else entirely — a fresh take on what it means to be a pop culture icon during the heyday of self-creation.

When GRAMMY-winning musician St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and her close friend and ex, writer-director-guitarist Carrie Brownstein, set out to make a documentary about Clark’s rock music persona, what begins as an attempt to portray the reality, onstage and off, of a touring musician morphs into a cinematic road trip that is by turns satiric and surreal. As Brownstein struggles with a well-meaning portrait of the artist and peels away layer after layer of identity, the limits of friendship and artistic representation are equally tested and the subject fragments into increasingly unruly and diva-esque shards of self-obsession.

Brownstein, herself a musician (Sleater-Kinney), falls down the rabbit hole believing she can get to the truth of who her friend is. Far from bringing them together the filmmaking process becomes a nightmare landscape of performative alienation with Clark’s true self receding the more it is brought into closeup.

Where did she come from? How does she make music? Who is her family? Who is her lover (great cameo by Dakota Johnson)? Myriad facades of the artist are skewered and discarded with meta-fictional aplomb in a script by Clark and Brownstein who met as musicians in 2006. Directed by Brownstein associate Bill Benz (Portlandia) with relish, even the first five minutes of the film are wickedly insightful and well worth your time.

The Nowhere Inn is now playing in theaters and online.

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