Taking Woodstock Reviews
Elliot Teichberg (Demetri Martin) discovers that a music festival near his family's motel has lost its licence. Trying to save his parents' business, he calls Woodstock Ventures and offers to help them stage the gig at a farm in White Lake. What happens after that, has now went down in history as a legendary free-spirited musical weekend.
Anyone trying to craft a film worthy of the magic of Woodstock would have their work cut out for them, so wisely Ang Lee focuses on the outskirts of the infamous hippie festival of the 60's. Instead of focusing on the bands or what was happening on stage, we experience the effect this time had on the people off stage, through several characters - mainly Elliot and his right of passage. It's a light-hearted little film that is very slow to get going and definitely overlong. The talky first half is all about the organisation and chance encounter with promotors. This threatens to kill this whole film but when the festival gets underway, the second half is a lot stronger as the characters begin to loosen up. It sheds a bit of light on the effect this time and place had, but really there isn't a lot else happening. Maybe it would have been better had the focus been on stage. What I found most interesting was the depiction of Elliot when high on acid. Speaking from personal experience, it's the most realistic depiction of hallucinating I've seen on screen. It's not overdone but shows more the vibrancy of colours as they move and bleed into one another and the almost ocean like movement of a large crowd of people when dancing together. Wow, It took me back man.
You would think with this depicting a defining moment in the whole 60's 'movement', it would have something more than a very lesuirely pace. However, when the drugs and music start to flow, the film flows with them. Disappointing but it has it's moments.
The movie's pacing was a slight problem, as things seemed to drag on a bit, and some of the split screen stuff seemed a tad bit annoying and unnecesary, but, otehr than that, everything else pretty much works just fine. I really liked the cast and the performances they gave. Demetri Martin did a nice job, and I'd love to see him in more movies. Imelda Staunton is a stand out as Elliot's mom, but Liev Schrieber and Emile Hirsch probably give the best and most memorable performances of the entire show.
I liked that this film wasn't just a "hippiexploitation" movie, and that Lee really tried to tell a simple humble story about people struggling financially that ended up setting of something that a cultural and historic milestone. This is good stuff, that I reccomend seeing.
A man working at his parents' motel in the Catskills inadvertently sets in motion the generation-defining concert in the summer of 1969.
Don't be misled. Taking Woodstock is not a concert film. Instead, Ang Lee has crafted a nuanced tale about a handful of unlikely characters who inadvertently helped to bring about the the crowning glory of American Hippiedom: 'Woodstock-Three Days Of Peace And Music'. In the late summer of 1969, hoping to drum up business for his parents failing motel, Elliot Tiber (played by comedian, Demetri Martin) convinces a radical rock concert promoter to locate a music festival in the sleepy town of Bethel, New York. This innocuous contract sets off a chain of events which would bring nearly a half million young people to rustic Upstate New York in search of mystical communion, and, once and for all, demonstrate the legitimacy of Youth Culture (at the very least, in a marketing sense). The actual concert is never shown, because the film is only concerned with how this inept aggregation carried off the entertainment feat of the decade. Solid performances by a stellar cast make you forget the absence of the concert itself, and I was pleasantly surprised with Ang Lee's inclusion of many forgotten songs of the period, especially, "China Cat Sunflower" by The Grateful Dead, and "The Red Telephone" by Love. If you want to know the 'real' story, check out the documentary of Woodstock, but Taking Woodstock is an engaging allegory concerning the humble beginnings of what would become a defining moment for a generation.
A generation began in his backyard. From Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), comes Taking Woodstock, a new comedy inspired by the true story of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) and his family, who inadvertently played a pivotal role in making the famed Woodstock Music and Arts Festival into the happening that it was.
Its 1969, and Elliot Tiber, a down-on-his-luck interior designer in Greenwich Village, New York, has to move back upstate to help his parents run their dilapidated Catskills motel, The El Monaco. The banks about to foreclose; his father wants to burn the place down, but hasnt paid the insurance; and Elliot is still figuring how to come out to his parents.
When Elliot hears that a neighboring town has pulled the permit on a hippie music festival, he calls the producers, thinking he could drum up some much-needed business for the motel. Three weeks later, half a million people are on their way to his neighbors farm in White Lake, NY, and Elliot finds himself swept up in a generation-defining experience that would change his life, and American culture, forever.
There must be some unwritten code in Hollywood that says "Any movie taking place in the turbulent sixties must include the following: a vietnam vet who's suffering from combat fatigue, images of kids burning their draft cards, and images of women burning their bras. As Taking Woodstock goes into it's second act, the sixties cliches become more and more prevalent. It's the same thing that turned me off to "Across The Universe" (apart from the butchering of Beatles songs). Lee also manages to touch upon every major (and minor) scene from the original Woodstock film, re-creating alot of the original film's scenarios and somehow incorporating his main character (Martin) into them. It quickly turns obnoxious and laughable and this is where the whole thing starts to unravel. There's a scene where Demetri Martin's character, high on LSD, watches as the audience at woodstock turns into a giant ocean, with tears running down his cheeks. It's not supposed to be comical but it is, and is reminiscent of certain laughable scenes from the Hulk movie. Sometimes Ang Lee seems to come from the Oliver Stone school of filmmaking; when he takes himself too seriously, the result is often obnoxious. Apart from a few entertaining performances, there's not much to enjoy about Taking Woodstock. It's far more worthwhile to just watch the original film again and forget about this.
An Ang Lee summer comedy. That's a fun start off sentence. This film is a behind the scenes look at the story of the young man who setup the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival. The film meanders a bit and has a few strange characters, but it is mostly entertaining.
Set in 1969, the film follows the true story of Elliot Tiber(played here by Demetri Martin), an aspiring Greenwich Village interior designer whose parents owned a small dilapidated motel in Upstate New York. He held the only musical festival permit for the town of Bethel, New York and offered it and accommodations at the Catskills motel to the organizers of the Woodstock Festival. As word got around, most of the town was not fond of the idea, but hundreds of thousands of people were headed to cow country to see the concert of a lifetime.
This film is very much about what went on with the setting up and managing of this concert from Elliot's perspective and not the concert itself. We actually don't see the real concert at all, save for a few shots in the distance and hearing the music in the background. What makes this impressive, is that Ang Lee made this entire film without incorporating actual footage and the film looks damn convincing throughout.
I was also impressed with a lot of the style Lee showed in this film. A number of very long takes that impressively show off the scale of the event along with numerous uses of split screens, and an acid trip sequence certainly make this film interesting visually.
A number of the performances are pretty good too. Always a Liev Shreiber fan, he turns up to play an ex-marine transvestite and plays the character completely straight. Eugene Levy has a small role, but who doesn't like Levy? Paul Dano and Emile Hirsch show up to over act a bit. Elliot's parents were very well handled, as immigrant Jews who just want their son to help them at their hotel. As far as Demetri Martin goes, I found him adequate. For a stand up who has his first major film role here, he didn't do a bad job, he was just in place as this character and did what he needed to do.
The soundtrack is of course good as is the score from Danny Elfman.
The problems I had mainly revolve around its structure. The film seems like it just meanders with not much developing for a while. Certain elements turn up early on that seem like they could lead to something, but they do not. Its these small elements plus a dragged out ending that seemed to have me distracted.
Still, its an enjoyable film for the most part and tells a fine story, with good work by Ang Lee and many of the supporting characters.
Vilma: Go see what the center of the universe looks like.
What's especially disappointing about "Taking Woodstock" is not its comic and light tone, but in that it treats its material very broadly, with a tip of the hat to the concert documentary, which is very uncharacteristic for director Ang Lee and writer James Schamus.(I guess this is what you get when you cast Eugene Levy.) On display are all the cliches of the era including silly hippies, shell-shocked long-haired veterans and cheap immigrant parents. By contrast, the movie does show glimpses of a darker view of the time and place with the odd juxtaposition of reactionary residents and Jewish summer visitors. But strangely enough, the movie finally finds its voice once Liev Schreiber shows up wearing a dress and turns into a tale of awakening, told from Eliot's point of view. The movie handles history well, subtly referencing the Stonewall Riots, showing that nobody then could possibly have an idea that they would have a bigger effect than the Woodstock concert and the moon landing. But the movie also unwisely foreshadows twice, once about bottled water and the other time about how lucky everybody might have gotten over those three days in August 1969.