Woodstock or Bust (2019) is an independent music-based film set in the summer of 1969. This film is directed by Leslie Bloom and stars Willow Shields (The Hunger Games franchise) and Meg DeLacy. Focusing on two young musicians, they aspire to become bigger in the music industry, One night, they see an advert for Woodstock music festival, and they hatch a plan to go over to what would be one of the biggest festivals in music history.
This story is very simple in it’s premise, and essentially turns into a road trip sort of film. This is well executed, and feels very authentic. What makes the road trip aspect work is the clear destination of the story, and the stops that are made throughout their trip to Woodstock. Each stop added conflict or a change in storyline to the film, which not only gave the film good pacing for the 90 minute runtime, but also kept me engaged in the story overall.
They managed to capture the 1960s feel, from the production value to the costume design. What also helped capture the 1960s in this film is the music, which is superb throughout. There is a nice amount of music in the film, so it doesn’t overwhelm and take over as a musical, but reminds the audience that music is the main goal for the road trip. It also helps that both leads, played by Shields and DeLacy, are excellent singers. This adds to the authenticity of the film, and makes it believable that they would want to be musicians and that they could make it big in the music industry.
All of the main characters in this film are extremely likeable, especially Lorian (Shields) and Meryl (DeLacy). They may be flawed, but they feel like genuine characters and that helps ground the situation that they are in. I also really liked the supporting cast, particularly how Nick was written near the end of the film. His character has a dramatic storyline that works for the time period, and I applaud the filmmakers for making a bold statement like they do.
The film has a fantastic set-up, and one that is used effectively throughout the film. Aside from the music aspect, it is also a journey about the two girls maturing as they are about to reach adulthood, and coming to terms with where they have to go in their career to survive. They set up the film showing that they don’t have a sustainable future in music the way they are going, and that they need to move on. This is also not done in a typical cheesy way either, feeling authentic and, whilst I won’t spoil the ending, it is done in a beautiful yet real manner and it works for this film.
I find that the film does start to slip slowly in the middle of the film, particularly when we are introduced to Martin, one of the hitchhikers. For me, this felt like a development in character for ten to fifteen minutes that ends up going nowhere and having no impact on the journey, except to have a plot point in the road trip. I was fine with the hitchhiking stuff altogether, but it felt a waste to develop Martin in particular, when I would have rather spent more time with Nick.
I would have also liked to have seen this film take a few more risks, like a lot of indie films do. The presentation itself is simple, and to me there is nothing new or exciting about the cinematography or style of the film. For a film that is set in the 1960s, perhaps even adding a slight overlay or stylistic effect in post-production may have made the production pop out even more. There is nothing wrong per say with the presentation, it just wasn’t memorable or distinctive.
Overall, I was surprised at how simple and heartwarming this film was in it’s presentation. I ended up enjoying not only the writing and presentation of our two leads here, but the journey that they go through. The film is well paced and there is enough going on to keep your attention throughout the 90 minute runtime. If you get a chance to check it out, do so. It’s a solid little indie film.
Woodstock or Bust is now available on several platforms, including Amazon and iTunes.