This review was originally posted on News Cult in September 2017.

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Pilou Asbæk, Joe Cole, Lorelei Linklater, Jack Kilmer

Directors: Kate and Laura Mulleavy

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rating: R for Drugs, I Guess?

Release Date: September 22, 2017 (Limited)

The headline for this review was originally going to be “‘Woodshock’ Strands Kirsten Dunst in a Bunch of Random Images,” but then I decided that it would be much more appropriate to go with something nonsensical so as to keep with the spirit of the film. The directorial debut from fashion designer sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy feels like the creation of people who have never seen a movie before and only understand the medium theoretically. It essentially amounts to an academic (or anti-academic) exercise to determine the meaning of “montage.”

The plot, such as there is one, follows the perpetually on-edge life of Theresa (Dunst) and her husband Keith (Pilou Asbæk). She has recently lost her mother and is probably suffering from depression. They run a marijuana dispensary together … I think. People’s jobs and relationships to each other are not always clear. There is a tragic accident that neither the characters nor the film can come to terms with in any meaningful way.

At some point, according to the synopsis, Theresa ingests an especially potent mind-altering substance. I genuinely do not remember this, though, probably because there is no noticeable shift in the nature of the film at any point. There are some hallucinatory images, a few of which manage to be striking regardless of the context (most notably a house hovering a few feet above the ground amidst a shock of light). But if the drug has any noticeable effect on Theresa, it is perhaps in how it makes her suddenly unable to take a shower or bath. Good lord, there is a huge chunk of the running time devoted to Kirsten Dunst standing still in front of the bathroom mirror.

It is worth wondering why Woodshock fails so spectacularly while similarly subjective and inscrutable works like the oeuvre of David Lynch manage to be so powerfully affecting. Perhaps it is because even if it is not clear what the meaning of the latter is, it is not hard to intuit that there is some meaning. Maybe the Mulleavys do have something worthwhile to say, but they do not yet know how to get that across in cinematic terms.

Woodshock is Recommended If You Like: 2001, but like, on earth; Upstream Color, minus the auteurist bona fides

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Pleasant Summer Evenings