Sundance 2020: The Nowhere Inn

Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein appear in The Nowhere Inn by Bill Benz, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Minka Farthing Kohl.

The Nowhere Inn aims to put a different perspective on the music documentary genre but manages to miss the mark in bringing something new.

Annie Clark aka St. Vincent asks best friend Carrie Brownstein to direct a documentary about her.  The goal is a documentary about her music, touring life, and the musician’s on-stage persona.  But in making this documentary, their friendship ultimately gets tested to the point of maybe not even surviving the film.  Will their friendship be able to survive?

Mewnwhile, there’s a plot involving Dakota Johnson that comes completely out of nowhere.  It puts the film in LGBTQ territory.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Midnight films are films that are either genre movies or are wild entertaining experiences.  This was neither.  This was a film that felt more meh than anything else by the time the credits started rolling.  Maybe one needs to be more familiar with the work of Brownstein or Clark to truly understand what the film is trying to say.  Or maybe it’s about not understanding what the film is trying to say?  I don’t know.  The fact of the matter is that I didn’t get a blown away feeling like I did watching other comedies during Sundance.  Or the genius satire that is Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

There’s already an incredibly high pedestal when it comes to this genre.  The difference between previous films and this one is that the previous films were about completely fictional bands.  Whereas The Nowhere Inn isn’t about a fictional band but more or less a fictional persona of a real musician and the best friend asked to direct the documentary.  It’s quite possible that making a mockumentary would have served as a better choice.  While it’s true that they pull from actual concert footage, the end result just doesn’t come across like it should.

When it comes to music docs in the form of narrative features, there are high standards set by This is Spinal Tap and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.  It means having a film that brings something new to the genre that hasn’t already been seen.  Unfortunately, The Nowhere Inn falls a bit short of the incredibly high bar set before it.  Even when it comes to the whole songwriting process and getting to know a musician, there was a better documentary that premiered during Sundance.

As a comedy, this film might work for you.  To each their own, really.  Unfortunately, The Nowhere Inn feels like a sketch comedy bit going past its expiration.

DIRECTOR:  Bill Benz
SCREENWRITERS:  Carrie Brownstein & Annie Clark
CAST:  Annie Clark, Carrie Brownstein, and Dakota Johnson

The Nowhere Inn held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Midnight program. Grade: 3/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.