Thursday, September 21, 2017

Woodshock: Kirsten Dunst Smokes Up

You basically have two legitimate employment options in Humboldt County: logging and marijuana dispensaries. The former is highly discouraged by the state and local governments, whereas the latter has a regulatory green light, but they certainly to ought to check out the pot shop where Theresa works. In addition to Maui Wowie, they sell a special hemlock blend. Get ready to spend a lot of time with trees and grass in fashion maven sisters Kate & Laura Mulleavy’s Woodshock (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

One day, Theresa brings home some of her special blend for her terminally ill mother, but the resulting guilt crushes her psyche. She spends whole days moping around her mother’s house or wandering the forest outside in a t-shirt and panties. Her logger husband Nick isn’t around much, because his company finally received clearance to clear a patch of old growth trees. Occasionally, she shows up to work at Keith’s Dr. Feelgood dispensary, but she is so out of it, she “mishandles” the “special blend.” She is either going crazy or perhaps the spirit of the clear-cut forest is calling out to her—most likely, it is the first option.

You have to wonder what was described on the pages of the Mulleavys’ script that convinced Kirsten Dunst this could be her next-level-up film. Did they actually write out: “Theresa walks around the forest in her underwear hugging trees, then we cut to an owl, and then back to Theresa, super-imposing a double image on top of her, to suggest her soul might be leaving her body, at which point she suddenly awakes in her bed?”

That is what the whole, maddening film is like. It is sort of a Twin Peaks without the characters, dialogue, plot, and mythology. Basically, all that leaves are some strobe lights in the woods. To be fair, Dunst has enough presence to withstand the constant, withering close-ups, but to no real end. Pilou Asbæk, drastically slimmed down from his memorable turn as the loutish Didrich in 1864, makes a convincing drunk, but he doesn’t get much else to do as Keith. At least he gets more screen time than poor Joe Cole’s Nick, who disappears for inexplicably long stretches even though they are married and live together in the house they used to share with her late mum.

When our screening ended, there were audible groans among my colleagues. Believe me, they were not chanting “Woooodshock.” We are talking about a tough slog here and there is nothing at the end of the tunnel to justify the effort. The film desperately wants to be Lynchian and Polanski-esque, but its just not happening. Not recommended, Woodshock opens tomorrow (9/22) in New York, at the Angelika Film Center downtown and the new Landmark 57 in Midtown.