The Washington Post
Documentary takes an oblique peek at singer Courtney Barnett
The low-key music documentary “Anonymous Club” — ostensibly a portrait of Australian singersongwriter Courtney Barnett — kind of feels like a movie about someone who doesn’t really want to be in a movie. This is fine, and probably appropriate. Barnett is known to be publicity-shy, to put it euphemistically, so it’s no surprise there aren’t many moments when she sits down in front of filmmaker Danny Cohen’s camera and answers questions. There are, however, snippets here and there of interviews she has given to, say, a radio station or some other media outlet. (Cohen, a friend of the musician, has shot some of Barnett’s music videos and seems to know her well — well enough to have had the good idea to give her a voice recorder on which Barnett maintains a kind of audio diary over the three years during which the film was shot.)
The bulk of the film, which is divided into chapters with such wry titles as “You Must Be Having So Much Fun” and “I Just Can’t Yell Anymore,” consists of Barnett traveling, performing, interacting with fans, working on songs and engaging in such downtime activities as visiting a guitar maker’s studio. She doesn’t talk about relationships at all, or her hopes and dreams all that much, although there are times when someone asks her about, for example, her experience of panic attacks and depression.
Mostly, the insight the film provides into those things comes from her songs, of which there are — blissfully, for her many fans — plentiful examples. At one point, Barnett reads from her website, on which she had invited the public to post how they feel. (Her second studio album is called “Tell Me How You Really Feel” and includes tracks that range from the self-explanatory “Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence” to the deceptively upbeat “City Looks Pretty.”) A lot of the respondents comment that they feel alone, Barnett notes, adding, with her signature sense of delicious irony, “Maybe they’re not so alone.”
And that’s one of several points in “Anonymous Club” when Barnett’s art shines for what it is: a kind of mirror held up to people who, from time to time, may feel the kind of blues she does and who find, in the singer’s punky poetry, something that reminds them they are part of a large but anonymous club.
Unrated. at the Bryant street alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Contains some coarse language and mature thematic material. 83 minutes.