Watching a creator create should be enlightening. But at this point in Stevie Nicks’ decades-long career, watching the fabled Fleetwood Mac frontwoman do anything is more akin to surreal celebrity voyeurism. When you’ve attained professional enigma status, any attempt to demystify is going to be uncomfortable. And if “In Your Dreams,” the Nicks and Dave Stewart-directed documentary chronicling the recording of Nicks’ 2011 album, evokes one feeling, “uncomfortable” would most certainly be it.
It’s clear that Stewart (one half of the Eurythmics, Nicks’ former romantic partner and the producer of the In Your Dreams album) means well. Actually, their friendship is one of the most endearing parts of the film. Their concern for each other, as artists and as people, is obvious and genuine. So is Stewart’s desire to help Nicks realize her vision for the record, and to shed light on what goes on in that top-hatted head of hers. But for anyone familiar with Nicks’ career arc, the most documentary-worthy parts of her creative process happened decades ago, and they’ve already been mythologized to death. In turn, with few exceptions, “In Your Dreams” comes across more as a hype machine for The Cult of Stevie Nicks than it does a look into the mind of a musical legend.
The film recounts the writing and recording of every song on the album, interspersed with storytelling by Nicks and Stewart and odd, dreamlike segues. Despite the painstaking deconstruction, things rarely go beyond the surface. The standard laundry list of Nicks’ touchpoints, however important—her relationships, heartaches, devotion to family and friends, love of poetry, sorrow over societal ills, eccentric personality, opulent mansion—are all addressed, but with little exploration.
Nicks attained celebrity status long ago, and her music and persona no longer seem all that different from the mainstream rock star culture to which we’re exposed all the time. Nicks’ acolytes want her to stay the badass, esoteric Gold Dust Woman we’ve loved all these years, so seeing her fit her music into what most Fleetwood Mac fans would consider bland formulas is jarring. Especially hard to watch is the transition of “Secret Love”—a beautiful, lo-fi Rumours-era demo—into the slick, overproduced opening track of In Your Dreams. With a few exceptions (including a story about stealing a song from Tom Petty—although never mentioned is the fact that Petty stole “Don’t Come Around Here No More” from Nicks and Stewart), Nicks’ behind-the-music tales are similar to her stock stage banter from the In Your Dreams tour, which again leaves fans feeling as if they’re being spoon-fed celebrity marketing mantras.
In the studio Nicks is still the boss, arguing with Stewart over solos, pushing the musicians to their limits and holding her ground when disagreements arise. In addition to Nicks’ interactions with Stewart, it’s touching to see her work with collaborators Mike Campbell and Steve Ferrone (both of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fame), and fellow Fleetwood Mac members Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham. In a satisfying moment for all those on Team Stevie, a sheepish Buckingham gets thrown under the bus when late-‘90s footage of him critiquing Nicks’ lyrics— to which she retorts, “Would you say that to Bob Dylan?”—is shown.
While Nicks is still a talented artist, maybe—as painful as it is to admit—there’s just not much more to say. She has the right to control her persona, and if “In Your Dreams” encapsulates her current message and motivation, more power to her. We’ll always have ‘70s Stevie to obsess about. And, to be fair, what more is there to say about any of the rock geniuses who long ago crossed the threshold to icon status?
After all, no one would ever tell Bob Dylan his documentary is boring.