If I were asked, under threat of death, to tell you what Woodshock was about, that would be the end of me. “It’s about grief, I think?” might be the best I could muster. Even that feels like a copout, a stock answer that says nothing which, now that I think about it, is perfectly befitting this masturbatory exploration of…well, something, I’m sure.
Woodshock is a film defined by its shallow pretentiousness, daring you to find meaning and shrugging its shoulders when you deign to suggest there is none. It’s the cinematic version of a conceptual runway show. Its fashion may be interesting to look at, but no one is expected to actually wear what’s on display. A statement piece, I believe they’re called. A distillation of an aesthetic designed to catch attention and nothing more. Eye catching, sure, but ultimately hollow.
This might have something to do with co-writers/directors Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s backgrounds. As founders of Rodarte, the sisters have, since 2005, taken over the world of couture fashion, and even provided costuming for film (Black Swan) and stage (L.A. Philharmonic’s 2012 production of Don Giovanni). As their seasonal lines and costume design show, they certainly have an eye for aesthetic, and that, if nothing else, is displayed in their first cinematic offering.
The Mulleavy sisters may have an eye, and Woodshock is certainly intriguing to see, however the narrative itself is so muddled and contrived that it might be better to turn the volume off and supplement the imagery with a melancholic album of your own choosing. Indeed, much of Woodshock feels like an incomprehensible music video to a meandering track by a pretentious indie band.
Touched with neon framing and broody atmosphere, Woodshock may have worked as a 10-minute experimental final project for film school, but as a feature it doesn’t fall flat so much as it implodes under the weight of its vapidity. Kirsten Dunst stars as a woman mourning the death of her mother by smoking weed. Like, a lot of weed. So much weed. And wandering around. Weed and wandering. Wandering and weed. Also hallucinations? Or dreams maybe? Is she crazy or high? Is there a difference?
It’s a lot like the filmic version of your college roommate who slowly removed themselves from academic life in favor of smogging out your closet and staring at blacklights with a childlike sense of wonder and awe. You probably don’t see them much anymore, although they occasionally text you to tell you how good they’ve being doing lately now that they’ve turned 30. The only difference is that you probably wouldn’t mind seeing them some time, whereas Woodshock isn’t anything you’ll ever see again.
Honestly, it’s probably one of the ten worst movies I’ve ever seen. Baffling, self-indulgent, pretentious, and meaningless, Woodshock is a testament to not knowing what you’re doing even if you do it well. It might be interesting to see what the Mulleavys can accomplish with a script that has a head anywhere but inside of its own ass, and I hope they get the chance. This, however, has its head so far up its ass that it’s threatening to disappear, which would probably best for everyone involved.
Woodshock is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.