A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Woodshock is a very arty independent movie about legalized pot and assisted suicide. It spends a lot of time trying to look pretty and be cool, but it doesn't really go anywhere and doesn't have much to say about its challenging themes. Pot smoking is constant (as you might expect), and characters work at a pot dispensary. Characters drink to excess in several scenes, too. There's a brutal scene of violence, with bludgeoning and blood spatters; characters also die, rage, yell, and get burned with a hot iron. Language isn't constant but includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "c--k." The main female character (Kirsten Dunst) is shown in various sheer nightgowns and underwear, though there's no nudity.
What's the story?
In WOODSHOCK, Theresa (Kirsten Dunst) works at a marijuana dispensary. Her mother is terminally ill, so Theresa treats a little pot with a mysterious chemical that kills her mother and ends her suffering. But that choice sends Theresa into a drifting, depressed state, and she starts smoking pot infused with chemicals. Each time she does it, her mental state becomes dreamier and more hallucinatory as she wanders around the house performing various tasks (or believing she's performing various tasks). Meanwhile, at the dispensary, Theresa had gotten mixed up and gave the deadly chemical pot to the wrong customer. Her boss, Keith (Pilou Asbaek), becomes distraught, and her boyfriend (Joe Cole) doesn't know what to do. Can Theresa pull herself out of her dark place?
Is it any good?
Written and directed by fashion industry sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, this experimental, drug-hazed movie looks interesting, but whatever it's up to, it doesn't quite seem to achieve it. Woodshock is shot like a TV commercial or an artsy music video; its camera drifts around, rolling in and out of focus, catching different light patterns through windows or trees, with random jump cuts to show the passing of unmarked time. Dunst clearly put some hard emotional work into her role -- somewhat similar to Melancholia -- and she captures the feel of deep depression and reflection, but the movie simply leaves her hanging.
Her relationships with the men in the movie seem almost random, meaningless. Eventually, it feels as if the movie has left viewers behind, with no indication as to where it has actually gone. In truth, it's just plotted enough that it fails as an experimental film, and it's just experimental enough to fail as a narrative film. It's too tentative to make a definitive move in either direction. But the movie's cool music -- which undoubtedly came from deep within a hipster's record collection -- is at least worth a listen.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie use violence? How did those scenes/moments make you feel? How did they add to or detract from the movie?
What does the movie have to say about the subject of assisted suicide? Why is this a challenging issue?
What is an "art house" film? Does this movie qualify as one? Why or why not?
- In theaters: September 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 28, 2017
- Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Pilou Asbaek, Joe Cole
- Directors: Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug use, language and a scene of violence
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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