REVIEW: “Sixties Power That Holds Itself Back” – ‘Woodstock or Bust’ (2019)

★ ★ ★

“Rooted in sixties power but doesn’t quite fill its potential”

It’s 1969. Flower power is all the rage and ideas of changing the world are all anyone can think about. That, and getting high. It’s here we meet Lorian (Willow Shields) and Meryl (Meg DeLacy), an ambitious duo who crave more than just the world on their doorstep.

Woodstock or Bust is a story of a lifetime for our two leads, Lorain (Lor) and Meryl (Mel), who – in true sixties fashion – say goodbye to their small-town Oregon lifestyle and chase after their dreams. As a duo they ache to do more than be ignored at family gatherings or sing for a spattering of people at birthday parties, but dreaming of to performing amongst legends on the world’s biggest stage: Woodstock. Going with nothing but the clothes on their back (and a drug or two), Mel and Lor start the journey from Oregon to New York to fulfil their young, and arguably naïve, dreams.

Woodstock or Bust is a film that truly cherishes the sixties ideals of peace and love, particularly through the character of Lor. A free-spirit in her own right, Lor is the driving force for the pair’s adventures. Though, if you think her free-spirited nature is a weakness, then you’d have another thing coming; Lor is far stronger than she looks and does not hesitate to show it. Mel, on the other hand, uses the world as her muse. She’s more isolated and introverted, yet her talented is undeniable. As the songwriter of the duo, her creativity drives her passion for living and is eventually what leads her to joining her best friend on a wild cross-country trip.

Without a doubt, the true heart of this film is girl power, firmly rooted in the relationship between Mel and Lor. These characters are brought to life in playful detail by DeLacy and Shields, who create a realistic, and albeit childish, dynamic between these two best friends. They are loud, rambunctious and ambitious, and their teen youth is evident through their wild plans and their main concern being that of the opposite gender. Neither of them isare perfect either, with Lor embracing her free- spirited impulsivity a little too much and Mel keeping her feet firmly on the ground as the level-headed one of in the pair. Yet despite their differences, their friendship rarely falters. They bounce off one another perfectly, even amidst their teenage squabbles, and it is hard to fault that they are a fantastic pairing.

The film floats through it 90-minute playtime like a half-played snapshot of this out-of-the-blue road trip, as if remembered in some off-beat conversation that happens between Mel and Lor years after. Each scene is cut before its time and much like a memory; only the best and important details are brought to view. This is where Woodstock or Bust truly falters: we are never brought far enough into the lives of Lor and Mel, and instead feel rushed to get to the destination, like our protagonists. There is little cherishing the journey, which ultimately is the essence of a road trip. Instead we speed through road after road, destination after destination, until we are brought to an eventual stop. Though wWith this being said, even these stops feel rushed. Often, where the most pivotal moments of the film occur, we delve as quickly into a scene as we are pushed out of it and we never really get to appreciate what is happening.

Woodstock or Bust gives us the barebones for an incredible film with a feminist female dynamic that is ready to take on the world, one road trip at a time. Yet this film feels like it’s holding itself back. Although it touches upon important issues of the time, such as the Vietnam War and homophobia, it does not dive into them as much as it could and struggles to find its impact. Though with its pitfalls, Woodstock or Bust ultimately delivers a film filled with the essence of the sixties – both the good and bad – and delivers a friendship that makes it this film an enjoyable watch.

DIRECTOR: Leslie Bloom

PRODUCERS: Leslie Bloom, Martin Wiley

CAST: Willow Shields, Meg DeLacy, Teddy Van Ee

AVAILABLE: Woodstock or Bust will be available on most Video on Demand platforms from August 13th