“Never sell out. Always put love first and if all else fails, there’s always Woodstock.” This line is part of the opening narration of this movie and it casts a warm rosy glow as it sets the theme for this feel-good story. Catherine, the lovable heroine played by Allison Miller, is a young woman working in the city with a big record label. Her essential problem is that she is too nice, and puts others’ needs before her own. Catherine is in a long-term relationship with Garret, who is a caricature of a narcissistic actor, played perfectly by Jason Ritter. Catherine is given a promotion to the dubious title of a “wrangler” which turns out to be nothing more than a babysitter to an up-and-coming spoiled ‘artist’ depicted as a product of today’s music industry. She is being taken advantage of, both by her employer, as well as her fiancé. She has not put love first, she has not been true to herself, and even though outwardly she has it all — a cool job with a trendy record label and an engagement to a supposedly talented aspiring actor — somewhere along the line she has veered off the path of authenticity. Inwardly, Catherine is screaming in horror. She feels like her real self is watching her life playing out from a distance. The one grounding factor is her music and songwriting. Throughout the movie, music — authentic, good, folk music — is the pervasive thread that connects all things and guides Catherine on her quest.
Always Woodstock makes a cynical but comical comment on the music industry of today, portraying it as a shallow enterprise of phony corporate executives peddling garbage that has been souped up with a beat, while they cater to the outrageous whims of wacky ‘stars’ with questionable talent. This sets up an interesting contrast between the ‘real’ music treasured by ‘real’ people in the upstate New York town.
There are some great characters throughout. Katey Sagal is superbly cast as Lee Anne, a local singer-songwriter who has left fame and all its trappings behind. She displays her great range and versatility as an actor as well as her incredible voice. She takes on a mentoring role to Catherine, and there is a beautiful scene — one of the best of this film — where she sings to Catherine while guiding her in her songwriting. Rumer Willis does a very authentic job as the gritty bartender with a penchant for graffiti who works at the local dive. The charming Noah, played by James Wolk, is the local doctor and all-around nice guy. The story takes on a fairly predictable path as Catherine and Noah meet each other in a somewhat unorthodox way. Anna Anissimova plays the childhood friend who is there for Catherine through the good times and the bad.
Catherine goes back to her childhood roots to make sense of her crazy life. The small town of music legend, Woodstock, in Ulster county, upstate New York, is portrayed as an oasis as well as a mecca of music and art. The authentic, local characters come across as one warm extended family who welcome Catherine with open arms. This warm, sentimental film may just put Woodstock back on the map. Always Woodstock is a tale that may have you searching for your own small town to call home.
Always Woodstock opens in theaters and on digital platforms on November 14th.
Our interview with the Always Woodstock director will go live next week… So stay tuned!