‘Woodshock’ is visually stunning but emotionally lacking

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Photo credit: Facebook: Woodshock

by Ellen Case

If Kate and Laura Muleavy’s goal for their film “Woodshock” was to make it as beautiful as their clothing brand, they succeeded. However, if they meant to create an emotional drama where the watcher is affected by the story, then the sisters came up short.

“Woodshock” is a film about a young woman, Teresa (Kirsten Dunst), who suffers from depression after her mother undergoes assisted suicide. Teresa handles the pain by turning to marijuana. As the movie unfolds, so does Teresa, haunted by past tragedies and creating new ones from her own pain. While working in a (recreational?) marijuana shop, she faces difficult choices that affect the lives of co-workers, friends and customers.

Shot in Eureka, California, among the towering redwoods, the first film of the fashion designer sisters is stunning with a distinctive style that brings the eye’s attention to the smallest of details. The sky, the forest, and the rest of the nature are all beautiful supporting characters in the film. However, the film itself lacks as much connection with the audience as between Teresa and her lumberjack boyfriend (Joe Cole) whose relationship is never truly explored.

While it is easy to enjoy the visuals of “Woodshock,” it is difficult to connect and feel for Teresa herself due to the character being so one-dimensional. The Muleavy sisters do not give the right amount of depth of character to Teresa and the majority of her actions in the film are unexplained. Many of the shots are focused on Dunst wandering around her house staring at the mostly unimportant elements. The trippy, pot-infused film does not give much meaning to a whirling story and leaves the audience members wondering why Teresa is so obsessed with her bed and a cake that sits in her otherwise empty fridge.

Jack Kilmer and “Game of Thrones’” Pilou Asbaek round out the small cast with equally simplistic characters, who watch and get caught up in Teresa’s downward spiral. While the actors do a good job of what is given to them, even Dunst and Asbaek, both incredible performers, cannot save the meaningless story. The entire film seems to be the same footage except for costume changes and the occasional set change. In the climax of the story, if one even exists in such a pointless story, the act is so out of place that it is the only interesting scene.

Sadly, it is not just the lack of a compelling plot that ruins “Woodshock.” The soundtrack echoes the other problems of the film with each track sounding the same. This assists the film in feeling like a slow moving shipment train or a broken record.

The sisters have created a beautiful brand in Rodarte with unique style and designs, but their talent for art does not translate well to the big screen. “Woodshock” is visually stunning and definitely original but it seems like a film that would have been better as a music video set to a dreamy and melancholy tune.

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