The counterculture movement of the 1960s was one of the most pivotal movements in United States history. During the summer of 1969, Woodstock — one of the largest music festivals in American history with more than 400,000 people in attendance — was born. The festival’s popularity has withstood the test of time, and there were failed attempts to recreate it 50 years later. In time for the festival’s 50th anniversary, co-writer Leslie Bloom’s directorial debut, the award winning film Woodstock or Bust is available on select streaming services. Starring Willow Shields and Meg DeLacy, the 1960s period drama follows two teenage songwriters from the west coast as they venture out east to debut their original music at the Woodstock Music Festival. Light spoilers after the trailer.
Best friends and singer songwriters Lorain (Willow Shields) and Meryl (Meg DeLacy) are two talented teenage Oregonians with ambitious dreams of making it big one day with their music. Most people who have set out to do something without support from their loved ones can understand the main characters’ motivations. Their family has doubts about them making it as musicians which causes the pair to not get full support from them. Just like the counterculture movement the film is set in, the pair rebel from their parental authority.
The pair took it upon themselves to leave the comfort of Oregon to head out east to the Woodstock festival in New York. The dynamic duo created a lot of memorable moments during their road trip that further developed their friendship. The film does a phenomenal job at balancing the differences between Meryl and Lorain and giving their characters some sort of depth. Of the pair, Meryl is the most-talented and popular yet reserved, whereas Lorain is the funny, outgoing and assertive one.
Woodstock or Bust serves as a vehicle for its leading ladies to showcase their talents. Meg DeLacy was perfectly cast as Meryl. The role allowed DeLacy, a rising singer-songwriter in her own right, to show off her vocal talents and angelic voice throughout the film.
DeLacy has a strong performance and knows how to balance out the nuances of her character, which makes the film fun to watch. However, the scenes that require her to sing to is where she shines the brightest and it helps the audience buy into the fact that Meryl is more talented of the two musicians. There are impressive musical numbers in the film that are worth checking out.
Conversely, Willow Shields illuminates off the screen as Lorain and makes the most out of her comedic timing. Shields has by far the best performance in the film and her character goes through a wide range of emotions. Whether she’s happy, angry, afraid, or sad, every single emotion comes off as authentic. There is one scene in particular where she’s under distress and her performance is at its most powerful.
Groovy and Wild Travels
Being that the film is about the adventures Meryl and Lorain during their road trip across the country, the pair get into a lot of squabbles on their way to Woodstock. During the film’s first act, before their departure from Oregon, the film seems like it’s going in a generic formulaic direction. Surprisingly, once the pair are on the road things become a lot more interesting.
During the film’s second act is where social commentary of the 1960s and present day comes into fruition. As the pair travels east, there is a tonal shift that goes along with it. This is a good thing because the film goes from feeling formulaic to “Wow, did not see that coming,” which writers Judi Blaze and Leslie Bloom deserve credit for.
The hitchhikers and various people who Lorain and Meryl meet during their trip and the events that follow will leave you puzzled at their decision making. However, being that this is a period piece, it is easy to chalk up their decisions to the free-spirited movement of that time. If the film was set in the modern-day, their interaction with Nick (Teddy Van Ee) would be the most questionable, especially following the events that happened right before they met him.
Add Woodstock or Bust to the list of hilarious female lead duos directed by women in 2019. Leslie Bloom’s directorial feature length debut is a fun and powerful ride like the ’65 Mustang the main character’s drive. Visually, the costumes and set pieces feel like they were transported straight from 50 years ago. The leading actresses brought out the best of each other in this periodic drama. Social commentary is what adds a lot of weight to the script and separates the film from being your typical drama. There are some questionable decisions that the main characters make, but for the most part everything is understandable or has a reason. We may not have an actual Woodstock Music Festival in 2019 but if you can bring Woodstock or Bust home to you today on your favorite streaming service.
[All Mames Wey]
Woodstock or Bust was released on DirecTV, inDemand, Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Hoopla, AT&T, FlixFling, Google Play, Sling/Dish on August 13, 2019.
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