Kirsten Dunst has made some interesting career choices as of late and deserves all the credit for doing so. While she easily could continue to pursue the mainstream projects that helped make her a household name (she was in the Spiderman movies before that was even such a thing), she’s been taking on more diverse roles. One of my personal favorites as of late was her insane portrayal as Peggy Blumquist in the second season of "Fargo". She’s developed some indie cred and her latest role falls into a genre less category.
WOODSHOCK opens with Theresa (Dunst) as she cares for her dying mother. Working for a cannabis dispensary, she participates in assisted suicide offering a joint laced with poison that promises to be painless. Her mother passes and leaves the house to her. Theresa’s boyfriend wants her to move out, but she refuses. While she convinces him that she is doing this because it is what her mother would have wanted, it seems more that she’s not aware of how to deal with her grief. What ensues is a series of overlaying cinematography hoping to provide a sense of an outer body experience as she seems to lose sense of time and what might be or not be intentional actions.
WOODSHOCK feels more like an art project than an actual film. The narrative feels loose, but that’s possibly the side effect one wants to cause when presenting a film about a character experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. It’s an interesting aesthetic as the film is directed by fashion designer sisters Kate and Mulleavy. Photography is played with and at times we are not sure if we are watching a dream sequence or reality which helps put us in Theresa’s shoes. Her own perception of reality becomes blurred and puzzles even us as she becomes self destructive.
The Mulleavy sisters want to give us an unconventional portrait of grief and maybe even depression. It’s unclear if Theresa was having issues prior to her mother’s death, but it definitely serves as a catalyst for her actions. WOODSHOCK for sure looks great and would make a gorgeous coffee table book, but sometimes the visuals are focused on way too much and the story becomes secondary. While I’m all for visuals, the emotional arc doesn’t exactly hit the mark. Theresa is breaking down, she is crying and I should be doing the same thing. Dunst does her best with what she’s given, but she isn’t given much. The script feels almost nonexistent as I honestly wouldn’t know how exactly to describe the plot in one or two sentences to someone who has never heard of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for sure a hard sell.
The strength of WOODSHOCK lies in the quiet moments as Theresa walks and floats in the woods, possibly searching for clarity and a moment of peace that doesn’t seem to be found in the drugs she’s taking. The role was written with Dunst in mind and it shows as she personifies an all American girl who can fool the public’s sense of perfection. She’s a rare actress who rose from child star to successful and talented adult actress, sitting across from the best at award shows. WOODSHOCK is not for everyone, but there’s an audience there who will love it.
WOODSHOCK is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate.