The Nowhere Inn review – St Vincent mockumentary snarks on music stardom

PAGroduced by, written by and starring musicians Annie Clark – better known by her stage name St Vincent – and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney), this mockumentary is a highly hyphenated affair. Ostensibly chronicling the shooting of a music documentary by Brownstein about her longtime friend Clark, it’s a pseudo-road trip that alternates between cringe humour and surrealist reveries, all while commenting on the absurdities of the music industry.

Beginning with a dreamy shot of a limo whooshing down a lonely road through the desert, The Nowhere Inn aims to undercut the glamour of Clark’s trenchcoat-and-sunglasses attire: the limo driver repeatedly asks if she is actually famous. Clark’s apprehension about the disparity between her electrified, latex-swathed stage persona and her low-key “real” self grows in the vignettes that follow: she is turned away from her concert venue and the film makes not-so-subtle jabs at obnoxious music critics. As Brownstein worries that the footage is “too boring”, Clark lets her star alter ego take over, resulting in a sex tape with Dakota Johnson, who is a rare spirited presence in this otherwise anaemic fare.

Shot through with anxiety, The Nowhere Inn tries to tackle the question of authenticity, as it explores the murky veracity of documentary film-making and the artificiality of stardom. Todavía, the effectiveness of a mockumentary requires an understanding of the subject it is satirising, and concerns about the lack of interest in Clark being too “relatable” seem out of place. The facile commentary on the music industry is reflected in Clark’s and Brownstein’s comic sketches, whose snark amounts to mere noncommittal bits. Too hip for its own good, the film ends up going nowhere. Only of interest, quizás, to hardcore St Vincent and Brownstein fans.

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