Woodshock

Woodshock

2017, R, 100 min. Directed by Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Joe Cole, Pilou Asbaek, Steph DuVall, Jack Kilmer, Susan Traylor, Joel McCoy.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 29, 2017

Sibling competitors on Anna Wintour’s Fashion Fund and Woodshock directors the Mulleavy sisters may have an eye for startling imagery both on and off the catwalk, but their debut attempt at feature filmmaking comes across as 100 minutes of artfully mused, honey-dipped, lens flaring bafflement that may work better than Valium when it comes down to firing those over-energetic synapses. On the other hand, given its subject matter, it might be a helluva lot of fun on cannabis, but the first impression is definitely one of all style, and precious little substance.

Dunst, who gets an executive producer credit, is Theresa, a thirtysomething woman who has recently assisted her terminally ill mother across the veil with the help of some reefer spiked with an unidentified something-or-other. Enter grief, trauma, and loss, the three horsemen of depression, as Theresa, who works at a medical marijuana dispensary, slides in and out of a dopey torpor, wandering around her mother’s house, taking long walks in the surrounding Northern California forest, and generally allowing the THC to have its way with her: Melancholia, indeed.

There’s much meditative camerawork to get giddy over in Woodshock thanks to DP Peter Flinckenberg’s dreamy, ethereal imagery, but Theresa is such an unknown quantity that it’s difficult to work up any serious sympathy for her loss when we know so little of her backstory. Her alleged boyfriend Nick (Cole), a logger, enters and exits the film without making much of an impression while Theresa’s boss at the dispensary (Asbaek) is hostile and vaguely threatening to her. But what, exactly, is going on here? Are the random flashbacks that pop up every 20 minutes or so actual events with real meaning, or are they merely window dressing for Theresa’s paranoiac drug-induced stupor? Admittedly, the Mulleavys do a good job on visually communicating the labyrinthine corridors of a mind way too high on what may be one bad drug trip. Then again, it may not be for the audience to entirely discern, but an unreliable narrator who never actually narrates things renders the film a stoney, red-eyed, albeit impeccably coutured mystery, but one that never quite sorts itself out.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Kirsten Dunst Films
The Beguiled
A steamy and engrossing Civil War thriller

Marc Savlov, June 30, 2017

Hidden Figures
True story of NASA's black women mathematicians

Marjorie Baumgarten, Jan. 6, 2017

More by Marc Savlov
The Marksman
Liam Neeson is the action man again in this border thriller

Jan. 15, 2021

Beautiful Something Left Behind
The hard path to healing when kids suffer a death in the family

Jan. 8, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Woodshock, Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy, Kirsten Dunst, Joe Cole, Pilou Asbaek, Steph DuVall, Jack Kilmer, Susan Traylor, Joel McCoy

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle