Blu-ray Review: Woodshock

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Theresa (Kirsten Dunst) loses her mother to a terminal illness at the beginning of Woodshock. Technically she's the one who ends her mother's life, providing her with a poison-spiked joint. In this brief, emotionally-potent scene the general themes of Woodshock are laid out. Lots of hallucinatory imagery follows, but quite frankly not much story. The old style-over-substance cliche applies here as fashion industry sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy (founders of Rodarte) stumble through their directorial debut. The screenplay is theirs too, so it would seem there would be few other to blame for this plodding mess of half-formed ideas.

Theresa's late mother (played by Susan Traylor and entirely convincing, visually, as Dunst's mother) is essentially a client of a home-based business that mixes marijuana and euthanasia. Working with partner Keith (Pilou Asbæk) and—apparently to a lesser extent—her lumberjack hubby Nick (Joe Cole), Theresa makes money selling pot and providing a pain-free death to the terminally ill. The crux of this terminally meandering narrative involves a mistake which results in the death of a healthy individual who thought he was just buying weed. If any of this sounds intriguing, it is to a point. The basis of Woodshock has plenty of potential. But the Mulleavys have seemingly zero ability at this point to tell a cinematic story.

There are undoubtedly hundreds of screenplays (probably more) by film students and indie filmmakers with no means to fund production that might make better movies than Woodshock. What distributor A24, who plopped this into a few dozen theaters a few months ago, saw in it is anyone's guess. I know nothing about the fashion industry and had never heard of the Mulleavy sisters, but they must've been able to leverage their names in order to get this fiasco produced. Snagging a sorta "star" name like Kirsten Dunst (who delivers an utterly disaffected, somnambulistic performance—hardly her fault considering the material) would've only shored up support. Whatever backstory there is to the making of Woodshock, the end result is a 100-minute viewing chore that does little to justify its own existence.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers a solid A/V presentation that highlights the only real positives found in Woodshock—evocative cinematography by Peter Flickenberg and a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix. Composer Peter Raeburn has my sympathies—many of the scenes he had to come up with music for involve Dunst slowly, aimlessly wandering around her house doing next to nothing. As for "special features," there's a 15-minute making-of piece called "Making Woodshock: A Mental Landscape."

Even if I was told that Woodshock is, for whatever reason, the only movie I could ever watch again for the rest of my life, I'd seriously have to balk at the prospect of sitting through it again.
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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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