+ Recommended – NR, Comedy, Drama (90 minutes)
Woodstock 50 was recently cancelled, undoubtedly leaving many festival-goer hopefuls feeling a bit down. The anniversary stirred up some excitement but ultimately faded due to time constraints. Being disappointed is understandable, after all music is a language, in itself, that affects and influences people from all walks of life. At the end of the day, it’s an experience; and that experience is the main draw for a festival of that scale, whether it’s happening today or took place several decades ago.
A pair of young songwriters, Lorain and Meryl, attempt to travel to the hottest music festival on the opposite side of the country in hopes to get a snippet of the spotlight for their original duo act. While their road trip starts innocently enough, the time period has other plans for them: the Vietnam War takes countless lives and the late 20th century culture isn’t kind. A few other minuscule obstacles put them to the ultimate test but may not prove the end for their career, or their friendship.
This film isn’t particularly interested in straightforward story progression. Things sometimes just happen, for better or worse. And for first-time director, Leslie Bloom, this fluid, narrative motion can be effective. However, this is made possible at the expense of a meaty plot and subtle commentary. Judi Blaze co-wrote the scrip with Bloom, and perpetuates the male gaze—and male point-of-view—during certain situations. Much of the conflict between the two main characters involves men and completely disregards “the trip” itself as the primary antagonist.
Willow Shields (The Hunger Games) and Meg DeLacy (The Fosters) have magnetic chemistry when the script focuses on the positives of their friendship. When the story takes a turn, though, the toxicity makes it nearly impossible to believe that they have a genuine friendship. It’s these violent tonal shifts that highlight significant problems in the story progression and writing. The weakest relationships in the film are between the two girls and their parents, with the occasional peer. Those scenes, with the exception of the opening (showing just how little faith the parents have in their kid’s dreams), are contrived and cringe-inducing.
Underneath those inherent script flaws, Woodstock or Bust has good intentions and even some light fun. It’s supposed to be a feel-good, end of summer experience that will warm your heart and have you yearn for the days where you could just hit the road and drop all your problems; no social media and still entirely possible to disappear for a while. It succeeds some of the time, and the original music is an aspect of the film to celebrate—-bridging the gap between audiences now and the late sixties. However, moving forward, new films should take into consideration the path that Woodstock 50 (an attempted revival of the festival) took this year and let the past stay where it belongs: in the rear view mirror.
TriCoast Entertainment will release Woodstock or Bust onto digital streaming platforms tomorrow, August 13th (DirecTV, inDemand, Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Hoopla, AT&T, FlixFling, Google Play, Sling/Dish). If you’re looking for a light-hearted, summer indie flick then I encourage you to seek this out on one of those streaming services.