A poem isn’t a poem just because it rhymes, right? I’m not a poetry guy, but I feel like I learned that in school. A poem is a poem because the words used—and the words omitted—create an aesthetic and emotional quality beyond the words themselves. That’s a thought I kept coming back to while watching Woodshock, because (1) the movie is very slow, but also (2) because the writer/directors—Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who also happen to be fashion designers—attempt to trade in a sort of cinematic poetry, omitting large chunks of traditional narrative in exchange for protracted aesthetic beats. It doesn’t really work, but it’s an interesting, occasionally arresting attempt.
What plot there is revolves around Theresa (Kirsten Dunst), a small-town weed dispensary clerk who’s maybe married to a logging... guy? The film isn’t terribly concerned with relationships, backstories, or job descriptions, but that isn’t a problem for the portion of the film that consists of Kirsten Dunst in a couture nightgown, looking sad, wandering around and draping herself on furniture and foliage. This is roughly half the film.
The other half is a sort of a Lynchian (I use the term loosely) small-town neo-noir about tainted weed and mercy killings, and it’s here Woodshock loses the thread. Cinematic realism isn’t a mandate, but it is an element that needs to be carefully managed if you want to deal with both blue-collar angst and psychotropic weed-nymphs. Without proper grounding, Woodshock’s characters feel like townie action figures deployed solely because the filmmakers liked the Instagram aesthetic of neon-lit dispensaries and smoky dive bars, not because they wanted to say anything about actual small-town desperation. It’s fine, even admirable, to be poetically omissive. But only if you actually say something with your silences.