How do good actors end up in bad movies? They follow the leads of filmmakers who have unclear ideas or who make questionable choices. Case in point: Woodshock.
Theresa (Kirsten Dunst) lives in a rural cabin somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (shot on location around Eureka) and works in a medical cannabis growing operation with her boyfriend, Keith (Pilou Asbæk), at the same time caring for her terminally ill mother. In order to ease her mother’s pain, Theresa administers a dab of unspecified material along with weed, and when the woman passes, her daughter tries some of the same stuff, with increasingly harmful results.
The filmmaking Mulleavy sisters, Kate and Laura — whose main job is costume design for such films as Black Swan as well as this, their directorial debut — decide to depict Theresa’s emotional distress, not so much through ordinary back-and-forth dialogue between her and her friends, but as a hazy voyage into solitary stoner melancholia. As she retreats into her home, occasionally venturing into the woods to solemnly commune with nature, the camera slowly examines her surroundings. Or are those scenes of her interacting with trees just part of her strange trip?
Cool, blonde Dunst has been a dependable presence playing generally undependable characters, from Interview with the Vampire and The Virgin Suicides all the way to The Beguiled, but the Mulleavys don’t give her much to work with as Theresa hallucinates her way through an apparent nervous breakdown. We’re left to decide which is the bigger danger — powerful weed or a vague screenplay. The writing gives new meaning to the term “torpid.” Woodshock inadvertently illustrates what may be the first drawback of cannabis legalization as it is depicted in mainstream screen entertainment: inert navel-gazing movies like this. Makes us appreciate Cheech and Chong.
Written and directed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy. With Kirsten Dunst. Opens Friday.