The Woodmans (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Woodmans (2011)

The Woodmans (2011)

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Francesca Woodman's haunting B&W images, many of them nude self-portraits, now reside in the pantheon of great photography from the late 20th century. The daughter of artists Betty and Charles Woodman (she a ceramicist and he a painter/ photographer), Francesca was a precocious RISD graduate, who came to New York with the intention of setting the art world on fire. But in 1981, as a despondent 22-year-old, she committed suicide. THE WOODMANS beautifully interweaves the young artist's work (including experimental videos and diary passages) with interviews with the parents who have nurtured her professional reputation these past 30 years, while continuing to make art of their own in the face of tragedy. The film grapples with disturbing issues, among them: parent-child competition and the toxic level of ambition that fuels the New York art scene. Says Betty Woodman succinctly: "She's the famous artist and we're the famous artist's family." -- (C) Lorber

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Critic Reviews for The Woodmans

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (10)

This intimate film is a fascinating glimpse into the emotions and art of a New York family whose bright star committed suicide 30 years ago at age 22.

April 12, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

It's impossible to listen to Francesca's parents, deadly serious about art as a higher calling, without feeling both saddened and disturbed.

November 17, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The Woodmans tells the compelling, if slightly disturbing, story of a family coming to grips with love, ego, resentment and loss.

July 28, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Willis provides no easy answers and points no fingers, but the search proves fascinating.

April 15, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Woodman's black-and-white photographs, many of them self-portraits, convey a haunting sense of isolation; of something forever lost from the empty, almost decaying rooms in which she drapes herself.

February 24, 2011 | Rating: 3/4

Willis works to turn The Woodmans into an existential mystery, through a soundtrack full of moody vibes, interviews shot in tight close-ups, and the floating words from Francesca's diaries that Willis inserts as a kind of answer from beyond the grave.

January 20, 2011 | Rating: B | Full Review…
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Audience Reviews for The Woodmans

½

There are two ways this documentary could have functioned well enough to actually be intriguing: A) Make it solely about Betty and George Woodman, husband and wife octogenarian artists, while briefly mentioning the suicide of their daughter Francesca, also an artist, as a past tragedy. Granted this version has less nudity but still... B) Make it solely about Francesca while getting brief testimony from her parents. Because combining them into two movies does not work. On the one hand, Francesca's ghost continues to overwhelm any work her parents continue to do in the present day. That is while the documentary manages to gleam some insights when talking to Francesca's friends and acquaintances but hits a brick wall when talking to her parents since all parents usually know less about their child when she becomes an adult and leaves home which is especially true in this case. And that's not to mention the film being that much less interesting when the focus is on Betty and George, to be honest.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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