Friday, September 29

Woodshock Review

Dir: Kate and Laura Mulleavy
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Joe Cole, Pilou Asbaek, and Steph DuVall

Fashion designers, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, take a break from their Rodarte fashion line to make a movie about marijuana hallucinations and the paranoia that takes hold of a lonesome young woman played by Kirsten Dunst. “Woodshock” is moody and atmospheric, seemingly an artistic undertaking that is more concerned with painting a beautiful picture than structuring a cohesive narrative. 

This is the first film for Kate and Laura Mulleavy who are following in the creative footsteps of another fashion designer turned filmmaker, Tom Ford. It’s easy to see the artistic and imaginative influences these fashion trendsetters share, however where Mr. Ford took his narrative direction from novels, the Mulleavy siblings have written their own story. And this is where “Woodshock” suffers its most debilitating error. 

Theresa (Kirsten Dunst) lives in a quiet town in Northern California and works at a medical marijuana dispensary. Her mother (Susan Traylor) is suffering from a terminal illness. Theresa gives her mother some marijuana laced with a mysterious substance, helping to end her pain for good. From here Theresa is followed as she meanders somewhat meaninglessly from day to day, working through the grief of her decision.

“Woodshock” is beautifully and ingeniously shot, bringing the viewer into the turmoil that Theresa is experiencing. Lens flares, striking neon lights, and hazy visions in a forestry environment accommodate the characters loneliness but also her desperation to make amends for her decision. The film depends heavily on letting images move the narrative from one scene to another; unfortunately it’s not enough to help the story, which feels just as obscured as the environments in the film. 

Kirsten Dunst is the bright spot in this film, the loneliness and emptiness she exudes is felt with nearly every activity in the film. Ms. Dunst’s performance anchors the film, the emotion she taps into helps provide a little substance to the aimless narrative. Pilou Asbaek plays Keith, the owner of the dispensary who assists Theresa in helping terminal patients commit suicide. Mr. Asbaek is placed in an awkward antagonistic role that doesn’t always match the tone that film is trying to achieve. 

“Woodshock” tries to create a metaphorical connection between the abuse of nature and suicide, but it doesn’t go much farther than that. The Mulleavy sisters understand how to compose elegant images; meticulously taking care of the external style throughout the film and attractively composing frames with interesting camera designs. Unfortunately it never goes beyond these elements, making “Woodshock” feel less like a story and more like an experiment. 

Monte’s Rating
1.75 out of 5.00

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