As you probably know by now, music is very important to me and has been a major influence in my life. Thanks to my parents, many of my favorite songs come from the 60’s. From the Beatles to CCR, from Led Zepplin to Janis Joplin, there are few decades as defined by their contribution to music as a whole than the 1960’s. So, when I heard about today’s film, Woodstock or Bust, I knew this was one I had to check out and I have to say, I am glad I did.
As the feature film debut of director Leslie Bloom, Woodstock or Bust is a tale of two young women who want nothing more than to share their music with the world. Finding an ad for an upcoming festival, the two teens head off on an adventure toward Woodstock in a classic road-trip/ coming of age story. Starring Willow Shields (Hunger Games, Spinning Out) , Meg Delacy (The Fosters, Stargirl) and newcomer Teddy Van Ee this is Woodstock or Bust.
Road-trip films are a staple in Hollywood Cinema. From comedies such as Due Date, to iconic adventures of Thelma and Louise and Almost Famous, this genre has proven itself as one of the most versatile of them all. Woodstock or Bust takes this classic genre and gives it the ultimate nostalgia twist planting the story firmly in the golden age of the 60’s when the hippie movement was at it’s peak.
Everything about this film feels genuine. Writer/Director Leslie Bloom and co-writer Judi Blaze seem to have been pulling from personal experience as teens in the 60’s making every single moment feel as authentic as possible. Unlike many of the films based in the 60’s this film is very careful not to fall into the ‘hippie cliches’ most films about the 60’s tend to fall into. Surprisingly, even the stereotypical drug use scene is done in a very tasteful and believable way. Not only does this movie do a tremendous job portraying hippies in a more realistic light, we get a very genuine look at how the events of the time affected normal people. From the tragic loss of friends and family in Vietnam to the feelings evoked from the assassination of JFK and MLK, this film touches on several historic moments with a great reverence and authenticity without overdoing it.
But what about the story itself? Surely this is more than just a hippie road-trip nostalgia journey? The story itself is one about friendship and finding your way through the tough times as a teen on the cusp of adulthood. It is one about facing difficult times and celebrating little victories. The film is filled with feel-good moments and heartbreak as Meryl and Lorian work their way toward the biggest festival of it’s kind facing both hardships and triumphs along the way. However, they soon learn it’s not always about the destination, sometimes the journey itself is enough. My one complaint however is that many of the events never seem to have lasting repercussions and, instead, seem to only be moments that come and go a little too easily. While I understand director Leslie Bloom probably wanted to keep the film with a lighter tone, she touches on truly sensitive subjects without fully embracing the consequences of the events causing a need for a slight suspension of disbelief in key moments of the film. Thankfully this doesn’t completely derail anything but if you think about it too much, you might find it somewhat distracting.
Even with a great script and pretty solid story, it takes a great cast to pull it off and this one has just that. The leads, Willow Shields and Meg Delacy, are two very talented actors who have already started making their mark on Hollywood.
Willow plays Lorian, a young girl who sees herself as the rebel but secretly holds an insecurity she hides from her best friend Meryl. You might remember Willow from the film The Hunger Games as Primerose Everdeen and, while she had a substantial role in that film, it is Woodstock Or Bust that really gives her a chance to shine. She has a keen talent and I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of her in the coming years. Meryl, Lorian’s best friend and other half of the musical duo is played by Meg Delacy. Meg has appeared in a ton of television as of late but she too really shines in this film. Her character is portrayed as the true talent of the musical duo but, even though she sees it as her dream, has a deep doubt about herself and her path in life. Rounding out the cast is newcomer Teddy Van Ee who plays Nick a young man the girls find during their journey. He doesn’t show up until sometime through the film but proves himself to be a key component to Meryl and Lorian’s journey to Woodstock. Teddy also shows a unique talent and one that I hope we see more of.
Now, any film about the 60’s and the music of the time needs to have a good soundtrack and this one certainly manages to pull this off perfectly. These days it is very difficult to get rights to original recordings but Woodstock or Bust finds a way around this by presenting some fantastic covers coupled with original songs that feel perfectly suited to the time period being portrayed. The thing I love the most though is that Meg and Willow actually perform the original music in the film. Every time you see them playing, it’s really them and frankly, I would love to hear more from them as a duet. Not only are they solid actors but they really prove themselves as very talented musicians. You can hear two of the original songs on the official website for the film here. Trust me, they are really solid tracks and I really hope they release the official soundtrack at some point.
The Bottom Line
While feelgood films are not everyone’s bag, this is a film that I highly recommend. Director Leslie Bloom has created a simple yet immensely enjoyable film about life and finding yourself in a world that has stopped making sense. Sure it has a few bumps in the road but, Woodstock Or Bust is a reminder that, no matter how bad the world seems, you can find what you need to survive with a little help from your friends.
With a wonderful cast, a great story and terrific direction, Woodstock Or Bust is a great film for the entire family. I look forward to seeing more from everyone involved, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
TriCoast Entertainment will release ‘Woodstock or Bust’ onto digital streaming platforms August 13th (DirecTV, inDemand, Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Hoopla, AT&T, FlixFling, Google Play, Sling/Dish).
Late To The Game 8/12/2019
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