In an era of failure…“The Nowhere Inn“(Filmreview)

In an era of failure…is there a better catch phrase to fully embrace and celebrate year three of this global pandemic? I don’t think so.

But first things first. It’s been really quiet around here with reviews of all kinds. We promise you to do better this year and be more active on our blog sharing with you what books we have read and what films we have watched over the last couple of months. Last year I was really looking forward to go see „The Nowhere Inn“ starring Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein playing…kind of…themselves…in a way. But with the pandemic taking over in 2020 and 2021 the release in germany got postponed and when it finally premiered in Berlin I missed the one time opportunity to see it on a big screen. Bad luck as always.

But now I finally managed to watch it and despite all the mixed or let’s be honest mostly bad reviews, I really enjoyed watching it. Not so much for the plot and its twists but more because it resonantes so much with the state of mind I’m in right now, I guess. It’s empowering in a weird way with the film being more or less a tale about being less afraid of showing who we truly are or going down the path of a lynchian nightmare with our fake identities and lives.

So here’s the trailer for you to find out more about what I’m gonna talk about in the next section:

I wanted people to really know who I am vs. I wanna be in control of the narrative

That’s what Annie Clark (better known under her moniker St. Vincent, which the film is hilariously is making fun of, too) wants from the documentary abouth herself directed by her best friend Carrie Brownstein (called „CB“ by Annie Clarke during the film, which is kind of cute because I truly think that’s how she calles her in real life). Carrie Brownstein instead wants to make a captivating documentary and pushes Annie Clark to be more like her on stage persona St. Vincent because all the recorded off stage footage is more or less basic or boring stuff people do while being on tour.

So the first half of the film plays with a lot of tropes, like the genre of music documentaries, the life of a supposedly glamorous rockstar, the power dynamics in relationsships, the artistic ego and the blurry lines between fiction and reality. The second half switches into a more twin peak_ish plot and Annie Clark transforms into someone she thinks the audience (or better her friend CB) wants to see in the documentary. She then completely takes over the narrative by staging gay kinky sex with a rising filmstar (Dakota Johnson everyone), a break up scene on camera and a fake family gathering.

In an era of failure

I’m not going to make an effort to interpret „The Nowhere Inn“ from a critics point of view cause I’m not one. I really love watching music documentaries when the artist is involved in the process and in this case I’m thrilled that instead of a more or less predictable music documentary this weirdly entertaining behind the scenes meta thingy came to life. After watching it the most profound aspect of the film to me is its focus on friendship or intense lifelong relationships in general and the dangers of falling out with the ones you love. The friendship chemistry betweeen Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein is defintely what kept me watching it to the (bitter?!) end since I’m myself going through a heavy friendship break up at this very moment. In the beginning their friendship is depicted as supportive, nurturing, honest and affective. They truly trust each other, let each other in and that’s what also makes them emotionally vulnerable, especially Annie Clark in this case. Throughout the intensifiying micro aggressions coming from CB during the shooting she’s so amazingly chill and down to earth, totally at peace with being boring in „real life“…cause she truly believes that the music, her art, will speak for itself to make the documentary interesting, right? Well, not quite. Cause the ambition of Carrie Brownstein to be a high achiever and to finally have her breaktrough as a film director (mostly to meet her fathers expectation) puts heavy weight on the filming process and a lot of pressure on their friendship as well. The fun is gone, the tension rises and the alienation between them is undeniable.

To me that shows that no matter how famous we become, we continue to struggle with the expectations people close and important to us are putting on us. These social forces as well as cultural expectations in a capitalist society challenge our relationships with one another in a very profound way. And when the doubt crawls in it can have severe effects on our own state of mind, our mental health and the way we perceive the world.

There is this one scene in „The Nowhere Inn“ that made me write this review in the first place. Underlying the complex challenges all of us face, rockstar and fame aside: Carrie and Annie go for a walk or on a hike and this honest talk between these to exceptional artists developes where CB admits that she thinks she is in an era of failure, that she’s out of tune with what people like (the scary Zeitgeist everone). Could also be a side kick commentary to all the harsh critics that the Sleater-Kinney Album „The Center won’t hold“ recieved, produced by Annie Clarke. But more in general: in the end we all wanna be liked or sometimes also admired for what we do to give our life and actions purpose and meaning. But can there also be room for failure as a healthy indicator for growth and reaching out to one another to establish real connections while we are let to be believe success and overachieving is the key to happyness?

In the end I honestly don’t know where to put „The Nowhere Inn“. Which to me is a good sign. The genre mokumentary in generall sounds odd to me. I just loved watching one of my favourite artists Carrie Brownstein on screen, interacting with one of her closests friend trying to give a more philosophical behind the scenes picture of fame and the complex struggle to be your true self with all the expectations society puts on us.

Maybe I got it all wrong. But one thing is for sure in the end. The title song would have been a perfect fit for a Roadhouse_ish perfomance in a Twin Peaks episode:

„Here in the Nowhere Inn where nothing and no one wins…Here in the Nowhere Inn always a labyrinth“

Review by Giuseppina Lettieri

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