"I feel like I'm trying too hard," says Catherine Brown (Allison Miller), the nascent singer-songwriter at the center of "Always Woodstock." The same could be said of the film's writer-director, Rita Merson, whose overly familiar coming-of-age piece works best when it simply calms down and gets real.
Catherine is a self-conscious twentysomething working at a soul-sucking Manhattan record label. In typical rom-com fashion, she loses her job and her cheating boyfriend (Jason Ritter) in one barrel-bottom day. Cue the reinvention plan! And the annoyingly endearing Catherine escapes upstate to that free-to-be-you-and-me nirvana, Woodstock.
Once there, she moves into the house left behind by her late parents (why such valuable property has been sitting empty for years is unclear), falls for dreamy doctor Noah (James Wolk, super-appealing), wins over a wry bartender-barista (Rumer Willis) and befriends a legendary folk singer (a fine Katey Sagal), who helps Catherine jump start her music career.
Unfortunately, Merson clutters her sometimes soulful, sensitive story with too many formulaic contrivances to impede Catherine's personal and professional progress. The romantic crossed-wires that estrange Catherine and Noah — for way too long — feel particularly lame.
Better moments include orphans Catherine and Noah's deeply felt talk about parental loss, the gal-pal interaction between Catherine and co-worker Ryan (Anna Anissimova), the comic stylings of Finesse Mitchell as a slick record company exec and a stirring end-credits musical duet between Miller and Sagal.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.