Some movies are so good they make you time travel. You sink into the couch or in the theater chair and lose 90 minutes or two hours without a care in the world. You’re surprised when you check the time. You can’t believe how long it’s actually been! Bad movies do this too, but instead of losing time, fifteen minutes turns into an hour. An hour turns into two hours. And god forbid if it’s longer than 90 minutes, because you can barely even make it through that. Bad movies are like black holes, once one has you in its grips, it feels like you’ll never get out.
I can’t tell you how many times I checked the time while I watched Woodshock, but it’s certainly an embarrassing amount. The film is drawn out, tedious and boring. There are glimpses of intrigue, there are times when Kirsten Dunst breaks out of her pot induced haze and says a sly line or shares a look that makes it seem like someone’s home inside that head, but most of the movie is an exercise in patience. Patience the movie has not earned.
Directed by Laura Mulleavy and Kate Mulleavy, the sister team behind the witchy fashion brand Rodarte, are no strangers to cinema. They’ve dressed many an actress and even provided the costumes for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Their first foray into directing, Woodshock, tells the story of Theresa (Kirsten Dunst) a woman who starts off the movie grieving her mother’s death and only gets more sad throughout its duration. Theresa lives in the boonies with her logging husband Nick, who spends most of his time at work. When Theresa isn’t laying on the floor and crying at home, she’s working at the town’s weed dispensary with her hot headed, charismatic coworker, Keith (Pilou Asbæk). Theresa has a mysterious vial of liquid she mixes with weed that kills whoever smokes it, and although the dispensary only doles it out when someone is dying slowly (like Theresa’s mother), it’s obvious from the beginning that something is going to go very wrong, and it does. The pain Theresa causes sends her into another bout of despair one that sees her hallucinating and resorting to drastic measures.
All of that makes the story sound far too exciting. Between the poison laced weed and the hallucinations, there’s scene upon scene where nothing much happens, but Theresa is sad about it. Asbæk’s Keith manages to brighten up the mood when he appears on screen. He convinces Theresa to leave the house, go to work, go to a party, but eventually even his appearance is grating. By the end of the movie, not even the trippy final scenes feel engaging. Sure the redwoods are beautiful and so is Theresa but there’s no reason for you to be engaged. So you’re not.
The Milleavy’s fashion instincts are top notch. Season after season, they churn out interesting dresses and outfits. Some more architectural, others more wearable, but they’re always interesting. Unfortunately, almost none of that translates into the film. Theresa spends most of the movie wandering around in simple house dresses and slips. Nothing that feels ethereal and moody, the kind of stuff Rodarte is known for. Near, the end, she does don a fantastic flapper-ish black sequined dress to meet up with Keith at the local bar. She’s overdressed and far too late to stop what’s been set in motion, but it works. In fact, it might be the best damn scene in the whole movie.