Wednesday, June 29

Stream it or skip it: ‘The Nowhere Inn’ on Hulu, where St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein face off in a fake d

The Inn of Nowhere meets Annie Clark, aka the pop star St. Vincent, and Carrie Brownstein from Portlandia and Sleater-Kinney’s fame moving their collaborative efforts from music to film. The film, which originally premiered in January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival, is now available on Hulu, as well as for rent or purchase on Apple TV and other streaming services. Written by Clark and Brownstein and directed by first-time filmmaker Bill Benz, the mock tour documentary examines artistry, identity and fame and also includes the occasional live performance of St. Vincent.


Opening shot: A white limousine is racing down a desert highway. Annie Clark is sitting in the back seat. The limo driver says he doesn’t know who she is. “Okay,” Clark replies politely, “I’m not for everyone.” He cuts her off a moment later, saying, “Hey, I called my boy. He’s in a band. He says he hasn’t heard of you either. “

The essence: Annie Clark is Saint Vincent and Saint Vincent is Annie Clark… but again, is it her? What starts out as a doc tour turns into an existential examination of art, the artist, creative control, and even reality. Annoyed, right? The Inn of NowherePromotional materials refer to it as a “metafictional feature” and while it is fully written, there are multiple truths that run through its false narrative.

After an introduction by David Lynch-ian, Clark looks at the camera like a criminal when questioned. “Why was the movie never completed?” He says. “All I can say is that at some point things went terribly wrong.” Things start out quite simple; Clark asks her “best friend” Brownstein to direct a touring documentary that will “remove the layers” and show who she really is.

However, as the tour and film progresses, both the filmmaker and protagonist are disappointed by the disconnect between St. Vincent, the sexy latex alt rocker, and Clark, the thoughtful entertainer who eschews backstage debauchery for fresh veggies. and Scrabble games. Brownstein asks Annie to become more like her character on stage, to be “more interesting” and in doing so unleashes a monster.

As Clark dons sunglasses, starts smoking, and indulges in primadonna sex tapes and behavior, Brownstein loses control of the film, her friend, and her sense of reality. The band’s tour bus turns into a dance club where everyone wears angular St. Vincent wigs. “We’re in this together,” Clark tells Brownstein. “Are we?” She asks in return. “Um hmm,” Clark purrs, “Me and me.”

Fantasy and reality intersect in a seductive way. Clark organizes a fake family reunion in Texas. “This is who I am,” he says. Later, Brownstein will blindfold her and take her to the prison where her father is incarcerated to provoke a real reaction. Clark, in fact, grew up in Texas and his father served time for fraud. “That’s why I make music, to get away from this,” he yells at Brownstein, pointing to the prison. “But you can’t just make it up and expect people to accept it,” says Brownstein, echoing the endless artistic debates about artifice and authenticity. “Well then I want to make another kind of movie,” is Clark’s response. In fact, it has.

Photo: © IFC Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

Which movies will it remind you of ?: The Inn of Nowhere is inspired by mockumentary from the past, rock docs, and indie movies. This is lumbar puncture it’s definitely a touchstone, while a bit about writing a mid-tour song about the tour reminds of 1982 Another state of mind, a real tour documentary about two hapless punk bands traversing America. Clark’s inner battle with his character of St. Vincent on stage echoes that of Darren Aronofsky Black Swan And the premise of a movie about making a movie has many precedents, but in this case it closely resembles that of 1995. Living in oblivion, with a young Steve Buscemi. Of course, it also shares the comic DNA of Portlandia, with jokes that get exponentially funnier every time you think about them.

Performance worth watching: Annie Clark is perfect for portraying, well, herself. Seriously though, his comedic pace and tone are flawless and while his acting is intentionally polite, he’s natural on camera and effortlessly shifts between different manifestations of his persona and personality. She should act more.

Diálogo memorable: After Dakota Johnson, as herself and Clark’s girlfriend, unexpectedly breaks up with Clark on camera:

Clark: “From now on, I need more voice about how other people are going to act.”

Brownstein: “It’s a documentary.”

Clark: “Okay. Well then let’s document only the things that I can control. “

Sex and skin: Is a Clark and Johnson sex scene hot enough for you? Well it’s not really, it’s played for a laugh and we don’t see much of it, although both women look great in lingerie.

Our Take: Like David Bowie, Madonna, and Prince before her, the St. Vincent art arc has been one of constant reinvention. And like them, he has now successfully bridged the precarious gap between music and film. His music is both challenging and approachable, much like The Nowhere Inn, which brings together great ideas in a comedic thriller but never disappears up its own ass.

Interestingly, by creating a fictional story about Saint Vincent, the artist, Brownstein and Clark have created a work that reveals so much about the underlying human being. When Brownstein says near the end of the film, “I don’t know who you are anymore,” Clark responds, “I know who I am. What does it matter if someone else does? “High-sounding notions of identity aside, the film ultimately succeeds because it is well-written, well-acted, and visually stunning.

Our calling: STREAM IT. The Inn of NowhereThe charms are many and will attract both Saint Vincent and Portlandia fans. Where so many movies aspire simply to entertain us, Clark and Brownstein have created something that provokes thought and laughter.

Benjamin H. Smith is a New York-based writer, producer, and musician. Follow him on Twitter: @BHSmithNYC.

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