I love Stevie Nicks. Who doesn't? However, I came upon her music only within the last couple years—I'm by no means a Stevie expert. So I was excited to see In Your Dreams, the new film Nicks and collaborator Dave Stewart directed, at SXSW this month; the screening was a chance to learn more about Stevie from herself and an opportunity to wear a Stevie-approved ensemble (long flowing skirt obviously).
While I enjoyed In Your Dreams, it is very much a documentary for the Stevie die-hards. Fans who have been enrolled in the school of Stevie for years will enjoy the film that documents the collaboration between Nicks and Stewart (a former member of the Eurhythmics) on their album of the same name. Shot "somewhere in Southern California," Nicks, Stewart and their collaborators hole up in a gorgeous mansion to work on the album. There are very brief mentions to Nicks' childhood and time in Fleetwood Mac, that's not the focus here.
While the film centers on the making of this new album, the formatting of the film feels like a distraction. The documentary is set up like the film version of reading liner notes. Nicks and Stewart go through the album song by song discussing inspirations, then cut to recording of said songs, which at times can be a rather jarring transition. It feels similar to Beyoncé's recent documentary (which she also directed) in that it's a very purposefully controlled portrait, one that seemingly gives the audience insight into Nicks' life but doesn't at all.
However, one thing that can't be contained or controlled is the sheer awesomeness of Stevie Nicks.
Nicks calls the shots throughout the film, saying very early on, "I don't like to be told what to do." The audience sees Nicks take control of much of action while recording the album with Stewart. In one of the more humorous and loveable moments, Nicks explains her love for Twilight—she immediately connected with the romance between Bella and Edward. The song "Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)" was inspired by New Moon. Somehow, Nicks' fangirling about the series is completely charming.
Even though Nicks was smack dab in the middle of second wave feminism, the subject doesn't really come up in the documentary. However, in the post-film Q&A at SXSW, Nicks discussed the choices that she had to make as a woman to do what she wanted to do, "I decided not to get married or have kids so I could follow music. I didn't want to be tied down." She also spoke about having to work multiple jobs (cleaning, waitressing) so she could continue to be devoted to music. Later in the day, Nicks spoke specifically for the music portion of the festival and that's when feminism explicitly came up. Nicks talked about how feminism has impacted rock and roll but also society as a whole, how she sees women's rights falling apart and how it's pissing her off.
"We fought very hard for feminism, for women's rights. What I'm seeing today is a very opposite thing. I don't know why, but I see women being put back in their place. And I hate it. We're losing all we worked so hard for, and it really bums me out."
While Nicks' documentary doesn't work well for the less devoted fans, it's still a fascinating portrait of an endlessly inspirational woman who cares deeply about women's rights within the music industry and outside it.