A veritable check-list for rom-com clichés.
Always Woodstock is the kind of movie I rather see as a slap in the face to hard-working single girls all over the world. The sort of nonsensical rom-com that actually asks audiences to find something admirable (adorable?), if not believable, in the general notion that those who work hard and get screwed over will have nothing but serendipity later, just so long as they can appreciate it when it happens. It’s the sort of world where starting over means immediately finding everything you were missing before. It’s fantasy, and not the satisfying kind.
Hardworking career girl Catherine Brown (Allison Miller) slaves away at a record company, babysitting egotistical talent and being generally unappreciated by her superiors. At home she is inexplicably engaged to an obviously narcissistic actor who has a sex addiction. As seems to always be the case in these sorts of hackneyed scripts, her life is thrown into chaos in the course of one day when she is inexplicably fired (no, like really, there’s a law suit there for sure) and comes home to a cheating boyfriend. Her life in disarray, she decides to move back to her childhood hometown of Woodstock, where the abandoned home she inherited (oh that we could all have houses given to us) gets the magical Mary Poppins treatment and suddenly looks like a Crate and Barrel catalog. In her first night in town, Catherine wanders to the local bar, gets drunk, and is taken care of by the young, handsome, and apparently single doctor Noah (James Wolk). Determined to pursue her dreams of being a folk singer, Catherine starts working on her music — with the help of an older singer/songwriter Lee Ann (Katey Sagal, descending the ranks to play a role beneath her) — and since everyone in this town seems to have an interest in music (though strangely not of the hippy variety despite the town’s history) she seems to have support in every corner.
Where things get unreasonable is that she faces that oh-so-unbelievable dilemma of facing career success and love life success simultaneously — a feat well known to be almost impossible to handle with suave fluidity.
Ok, so my snark may need to be put in check, but its hard to watch women be given good things on-screen only to be represented as wholly unable to manage. Allison Miller is affable enough, having a sweet demeanor that takes the edge off her illogical situations. As for her musical abilities, not so believable. Especially since she’s basically handed instantaneous success for what sounds essentially like the basic crooning of any dorm-room solo act. Not to mention she’s essentially offered the option of selling out before she’s even technically “sold” anything.
First-time writer/director Rita Merson gives off the feeling that her end goal was to make a movie, not that it was to make a particularly original one. The curves may not be wholly predictable, but all of them are groan-inducing. It’s just getting harder and harder to believe that the women in today’s rom-coms wouldn’t have seen enough rom-coms themselves to not fall for all the same tricks anymore.
See your new boyfriend walking out of an office with an attractive young woman? Best to jump to conclusions. Ex-fiance comes out of the woodwork at the 11th hour and claims to be rehabilitated? Definitely worth discussing. Got an important meeting on the same day you promised someone you’d be somewhere AND you lose your phone? Silly you.
There is a place for the rom-com in this world. There’s even a place for a storyline involving a woman transitioning careers and starting over in a small town (it’s been done many times to much better success), but I think it’s obvious the world has outgrown certain clichés and Merson manages to hit on almost all of them. Watch it if you want to see Katey Sagal sing, a talent she should be used for more often. Watch it if you want to see Rumer Willis with her trademark cool girl scowl. Watch it if you have no other expectations from a rom-com other than to see a dreamy love interest, and James Wolk certainly is. But honestly if you want a generic saccharine rom-com experience, you’re better off heading over to Hallmark where they at least aren’t taking themselves at all seriously.