“Woodshock” takes viewers on a dreamy trip, telling the story of Theresa, who works for a legal marijuana dispensary where a new strain of weed exists.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF A24
With the release of Woodshock, the first-time writing and directing team of Kate and Laura Mulleavy (sisters and designers behind the high-end fashion brand Rodarte) would seem to be following in the footsteps of Tom Ford, the legendary American fashion designer who has also trained his eye on motion pictures, crafting A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, two films with rich, visionary detailing. Expertly tailoring clothing to fit and accentuate form apparently can go hand-in-hand with shaping moving narratives that spotlight the mood and tone of the human character.
But the Mulleavys, in their inaugural outing, break free of the crisp and lean contours that Ford adhered to in his features, instead adopting framing more suited to the naturalistic approach of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, the best of his recent expressionistic works. The sisters actually go a step further, incorporating the end-of-the-world ennui Lars von Trier elicited in Melancholia. Able assistance in achieving this seamless blending of styles comes from Kirsten Dunst, who anchored the von Trier film and performs a similar role in Woodshock.
As Theresa, a woman struggling to adjust to life after assisting in the medically induced death of her mother (Susan Traylor), Dunst wears the mourning cloak of melancholy like a pure-white wedding veil, renewing her vow every time she lights up a joint. She works for a legal marijuana dispensary where a new strain of weed exists, one that not only takes the edge off pain but also ushers sufferers through to the other side. Theresa samples the potent mix and retreats further into her bleak mindscape, a place beyond her haunting paranoia and guilt. Once she reaches this place, there is freedom from life itself.
The film seems to pose the idea that Theresa dies in order to achieve this new life, but the Mulleavys blur and layer the frames of Woodshock with a dream-like fluidity that makes thoughts of surrender the perfect escape. (Opens Friday at the Esquire Theatre.) (R) Grade: A-