Thursday, April 11, 2013

REVIEW: Stevie Nicks: "In Your Dreams" Documentary

Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams
Two and a half stars out of five
by Katherine Monk

Starring: Stevie Nicks and Dave Stewart
Directed by: Dave Stewart
Running time: 100 minutes
Parental Guidance: coarse language

They say the creative process can be like riding a rabid bull, eager to gore you in a moment of distraction one minute, and likely to stampede in a rush of inspiration the next.

Unpredictable, fiery and completely random, creativity can reduce the bravest, most decorated left-brained soldier into a puddle of nervous mush.

For singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks, this seems to be a natural state — a lacy palace of romantic thoughts and swirling melodies that complements her actual abode, a sprawling mansion with a mega-rotunda in suburban Los Angeles.

The house and Nicks’s ephemeral creative muse are essentially the two stars of In Your Dreams, a new documentary from multi-hyphenate producer Dave Stewart.

Part video diary of the production process, and part artist portrait, In Your Dreams chronicles the conception, gestation and eventual birth of Nicks’ latest studio offering, which shares the same title as the movie.

In many ways, it feels a lot like a generic outing from the folks at VH1 or MuchMusic — a slick collage of music videos and talking head interviews cut within an inch of looking like a straight commercial.

Yet, for all the generic filmmaking device, In Your Dreams is not a generic experience because Stevie Nicks is not your average pop star.

Easily one of the more compelling figures to occupy a stage at the height of the arena-rock era while a member of the record-breaking, iconic act Fleetwood Mac, Nicks always smacked of difference.

With her black cloaks, spinning dance moves and sulky, notoriously nasal voice, Nicks became a cryptic sex symbol, and part of the pop culture soap opera as the world followed her affairs and heartbreaks with the likes of Lindsey Buckingham and others.

Rumours of everything from substance abuse to witchcraft were also thrown into the cauldron of talk, and while In Your Dreams doesn’t exactly denude the singer’s quirky personal curiosities, it does bring the icon into clearer focus.

And frankly, that’s not always a good thing.

On the up side, we are given unprecedented insight into how Nicks creates her signature tunes. Without the structure of a formal musical education, Nicks simply sits at the keyboard and plinks around on the keys until she finds the right sounds to fit the melody in her head.

As the musicians in the room make abundantly clear, she breaks the rules of music all the time, often changing the number of beats in a bar, the time signature and the verb tense of the lyrics.

At times, we hear expert production staff tell her “she can’t” do something, to which Nicks responds in a perfectly diva-esque drawl, that “of course she can” — because it’s art, after all, not a term paper.

Her self-possession is obviously one of the big reasons why she became as successful as she is, but we also hear how success created fear at the bottom of her creative well, making her dread the possibility of fabricating a complete dud.

Stewart helps her get through all these creative traps because he not only understands the musician’s headspace and the female mind (having worked with Annie Lennox as the other half of Eurythmics), he’s a natural observer.

At the top of the film, Stewart tells us he’s been a man with a movie camera ever since he found a gold chain on the street, turned the corner to find a pawn shop, and traded the chain for an 8mm consumer model. He loves making movies, and we can feel his passion behind the frames as he completes a two-pronged project: the record, and the movie about making it.

The best parts come after the midway point, once Stewart has established Nicks as a serious artist worthy of icon status, because once he’s dispensed with her legacy, he can get down to brass tacks — and offer up the real face of the Phoenix-born daughter named Stephanie Lynn Nicks.

Conjuring a feeling somewhere between nutty cat-collector and esteemed oddball sculptress Louise Nevelson, we hear Nicks tell us she was so moved by the plight of Katrina victims she “needed to take action.” So she wrote a poem.

She also tells us: “If my father were still the president of Greyhound, he would have had every bus in the country” converging on the deluged bayou to help move people.

These are lovely sentiments, and writing a song for the suffering is a nice gesture. Similarly, she tells us how much the Italians are going to love the ballad she wrote about Italy because it’s “the most romantic song (she) has ever written.”

And then, she talks about how much she loves Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series because she feels a soul connection to the fictional Bella Swan — because she, too, fell in love with a beautiful boy at 16 who eventually dumped her.

This stuff all feels a little too self-indulgent to spur feelings of sympathy, but it’s undeniably real and speaks directly to who Stevie Nicks really is: A well-intentioned, high-minded woman who feels great waves of empathy for others, but also has a healthy sense of ego to ensure she never feels like a wishy-washy waif.

Stewart captures the woman in fits and spurts, but he’s a rather random director and for all the technical prowess he brings to the booth, the songs feel overproduced. In fact, one of the most illuminating moments involves a demo track for an old unrecorded song that was found on the Internet.

The song is so cool, they decide to record it with all the bells and whistles. Yet, it doesn’t take a thick-rimmed music geek to realize the track sounded better as a haunting acoustic number. Stewart seems to turn everything into a Sting solo album, which may be manna to some people’s ears, but make mine hide under the bed.

As a slice of L.A. life, In Your Dreams succeeds beyond caveats because it captures all the ego and chandelier crystal of the fame-enabled lifestyle, but as a music doc and straight biography, In Your Dreams feels a little bleary-eyed.

Eurythmics’ Stewart wowed by Night of 1,000 Stevies
by Jane Stevenson
Jam ShowBiz!

Eurythmics’ guitarist Dave Stewart, who co-wrote and co-produced Stevie Nicks’ 2011 solo album, In Your Dreams, also directed a documentary of the same name about the experience which begins exclusive engagements across Canada starting April 15 in Toronto.

Stewart told QMI Agency he came away from the exprience impressed by the diversity of Nicks’ fan base.
“What’s amazing about Stevie’s audience is that it ranges from 12 years old to 60 odd years old,’ said Stewart.
“I mean girls of 16 are obsessed with the look, the feeling, the words, and then you get soldiers – it’s amazing – you get a cross-section audience, age-wise, gender-wise.”

Like the Night of 1,000 Stevies, an annual event bringing together Nicks lovers and look-and-sound-alikes staged in New York, with this year’s 23rd event happening on May 3 at Highline Ballrom.

“It’s a huge sort of gay gathering that all worships Stevie. It’s another huge part of her audience,” said Stewart. “They all have a great time and every single one is dressed as Stevie.”

In Your Dreams Canadian screenings.
  • Toronto / TIFF Bell Lightbox April 15 (7 p.m and 730 p.m. with Stevie Nicks Q&A afterwards) and then April 16–18.
  • Ottawa / Mayfair Theatre - April 19 & 20
  • Winnipeg / Winnipeg Cinematheque - May 2,3 & 5
  • Saskatoon / Broadway Theatre - May 13
  • Edmonton / Metro Cinema at the Garneau - May 14
  • Calgary / Globe Cinema - May 16
  • Vancouver / Vancity Theatre - May 18
  • Montreal/ Cinema du Parc - June 14-17

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would have given big bucks to have seen Dave Stewart at NOTS! Surely he was adored by all in attendance. Drag is not really my thing, or I would go one year.
As for the documentary, any chance to see her being creative is awesome. I look forward to buying it! (Waiting patiently;))

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