The Nowhere Inn (2020)

The Nowhere Inn
Director: Bill Benz
Writer: Carrie Brownstein, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark)
Cast: St. Vincent, Carrie Brownstein, Dakota Johnson
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Festival
Seen on: 18.6.2021

Content Note: sexualized violence

Annie Clark (Annie Clark aka St. Vincent) has asked her best friend Carrie Brownstein (Carrie Brownstein) to shoot a documentary about her as she goes on tour. Carrie is committed to show Annie like she really is, both on-stage as St. Vincent and off-stage as Annie. But it quickly becomes apparent that Annie is not really interesting. In their attempts to bring St. Vincent and Annie Clark a little closer together, things start to spiral out of control and the line between documentary and fiction, movie making and reality blurs more and more.

The Nowhere Inn is a strange film that works for the most part, both as meta-/autofiction and as advertising for St. Vincent. It is certainly worth it to let yourself be taken on that ride.

The film poster showing a woman (possibly St Vincent) from behind, wearing a jacket that says The Nowhere Inn on the back.

The Nowhere Inn is a slightly surreal, definitely absurd film that seems straightforward at first, but – as hinted at in the very first scene – things aren’t quite what they seem here. The twisty nature of the narrative takes maybe a couple of twists too many, and could have done with a bit of tightening here and there, but it works for the most part.

For one, it is honestly very funny, except for one scene that is played for laughs, but actually shows Annie abusing Carrie: When Annie forces Carrie to film her and her girlfriend Dakota Johnson (Dakota Johnson) during sex, and Carrie expresses several times that she is deeply uncomfortable with that and doesn’t want to do it – that is sexualized violence and abuse and not funny in the slightest.

St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein having an argument on set.

Other than this scene, the film and its protagonists’ sense of humor certainly adds a note of lightness to a high-concept film that would have otherwise felt a bit too cerebral. But the meta-structure of the film certainly serves it well to interrogate the concept of a stage persona and how much that persona is the performer’s identity, or part of it, and how the lines between personality and persona can get so easily blurred. To really work, though, the film desperately needs the after credits scene – so much so that I find it a very bold, maybe too bold a move to have that ending post-credits.

In any case, the film is certainly an intriguing look at St. Vincent as an artist, too. I knew very little of her music before going into the film, but the film does make me want to check out more of her stuff. Overall, I’d say it’s a very successful endeavor.

St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein talking as St. Vincent is in the bathtub.

Summarizing: intriguing.

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