Taking Woodstock - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Taking Woodstock Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 19, 2010
Lee's film manages to capture the groovy vibe of the famous festival, although it doesn't quite develop the protagonist very well and isn't that revealing about the magic of Woodstock itself. The result is enjoyable yet definitely underwhelming.
Super Reviewer
May 14, 2011
Taking Woodstock start interesting, but went the film begings to show the festival, Woodstock stay disagreeably sweet and presents a not so good screenplay, featuring some cliches. Don't focus really on the festival, showing just the making off. Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock is disappointing. Rotten.
Super Reviewer
March 17, 2013
Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock is based on the true story of Elliot Teichberg, one of the organizers of the Woodstock festival. Considering the legendary festival in music history, you'd expect something great right. The result is a good film that could have been done better. The film is entertaining with a good cast of varied talent and it's actually quite awesome to see such an iconic moment in music history come to life. This is a stunning look at what went behind the scenes about how Teichberg organized this incredible festival. I really loved the film, and though it's far from perfect, it's a must see movie for those who enjoy a fine comedy drama film that is based on real events. The story is good and the film has spirit and manages to overcome its imperfections by its good cast, its story and effective directing from Ang Lee. Lee manages to convey a good experience with this outing, and it is an entertaining drama that relies on a true story to captivate the viewer. At times though, the film does become a bit too preachy and tiresome. Luckily it does pick up in a few areas and there are plenty of good comedy bits with the drama and the film gives us a taste of what it was like during that time. Taking Woodstock is a film that could have been done better, but it nonetheless is a memorable comedic drama that relies on a good story and effective cast to overcome its shortcomings. Ang Lee, who I'm not too much of a fan, give the film soul and it ends up being a fun experience.
Super Reviewer
½ March 28, 2011
I'm starting to lose count on the amount of times director Ang Lee has tackled a new genre. He's done martial arts; comic-book; thriller; romance; family drama; westerns and literary adaptation. Now? Well now, he's tackles the story of how the legendary music festival "Woodstock" came to be.
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.
Super Reviewer
August 30, 2009
I'll be honest, any movie involving the culture, arts, and music of the 60s is something I'm interested in. Shockingly enough, I've never actually seen the Woodstock concert film in its entirety, but I like the fact that this movie doesn't have any concert footage, and that it's about everything else that happened, and how it all happened. It's a nice and new perspective. Sure, the prerequisite montages of mud people, copious nudity, and drug trips are here, but you really honestly can't get away with excluding them.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ February 6, 2010
I think this was an enjoyable movie but I don't think I'd watch it again. It was really long and I was getting a little over it by the end.
Super Reviewer
½ August 26, 2009
Not worth its 2 hours.....Lets just put it at that.
Super Reviewer
½ January 18, 2010
I really, really enjoyed this movie, a lot more than I expected. Ang Lee did such a marvelous job recreating the authenticity of everything, and at times it almost felt like I was watching a documentary. The performances of the fun and eccentric ensemble cast were all extremely good, and the direction was incredible. It was so great to have a 'behind the scenes' look at the Woodstock experience, and the fact that it was a quirky beginning makes it all the more entertaining. Bonus: the film was shot almost in its entirety in a little town called New Baltimore, about 30 minutes away from my house. I could have been an extra but I bailed, and now I'm seriously kicking myself.
Super Reviewer
March 27, 2009
"A Generation Began In His Backyard."

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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 16, 2009
It was a good film and it explores the hippie community in that era which was quite fun to see. It's not a typical film about bands and concerts its much more personal and it centers on a family about to go bankrupt.

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.
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2009
So, way back when I was incredibly hyped for this movie, but for whatever I reason I did not get around to going to see it. Then, once it was out, the general consenus seemed to be that it was not very good. Regardless, I hadn't gotten around to watching it until now; and not to be contrary, but its really good. For the most part Taking Woodstock is not particuarly realistic. At times the settings and situations drift towards realism, but for the most part it is a sunny, sweet movie. Then again, I might just be completely cynical. Perhaps Ang Lee dipicted Woodstock accurately. I was not there to know. Either way, it doesn't really matter. It just seems awfully idealistic for a movie "Inspired by True Events". Even if it is romantized, the movie works extreamely well. Its funny, visual, and compelling. It really is almost sticky sweet, but is presented in such a way that makes the film a touching human comedy rather than a sappy, sentimental, and manipulative drama. One of my favorite things about Taking Woodstock was the characters themselves. Even though they are not nessasarly realistic, they are essentially plausible and believable. I do not think that there was a single character i disliked. On the same note, it kind of seemed like the characters floated in and out, like most of them really did not have much of a role to play. Especially the builder guy/ Demetri Martin's lover. First off he was a beast! (okay, so that is not a bad thing =P) and second it just seemed like he should have been a mojor character, but as it is he didn't have much screen time or seem to do anything particuarly important. I suppose this is all major overanalyzing, but they are things I noticed. I completely enjoyed this movie, and I will probably watch it again and again. Ang Lee's fanciful and euphoric view of Woodstock makes for a pleasent viewing experiance. Ther is not any one thing that makes it great. Every just works together to create, maybe not a masterpiece, but a very good film. There are plenty of people who would hate this movie, but I do not think that they would pick up a movie entitled Taking Woodstock to begin with. Even so, they can write their own reviews to bash it. I do not mean to sound snooty, but I cannot, and really do not want to, write for other people. Anyway, a few simple words can sum up what I have spent for too many saying: "I liked this movie." The End.
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2009
Entertaining but unfocused and somewhat shot at a remove. The acting can't be faulted however with Imelda Staunton particularly enjoyable as a not always likable character.
Super Reviewer
September 13, 2009
It's groovy...you know? There isn't much of a plot and what plot there is - from what I've read - is a stretch of the truth. Nevertheless, Ang Lee creates a remarkably nuanced atmosphere that just...exudes peace, love, and music...you know? I don't even know what I'm talking about. I didn't live through the Woodstock era and no matter how much I love peace, love, and music, I will never fully understand the mood or feel the connection to this film that a true child of the '60s would. It's a feat in emotional, sexual, psychedelic subtlety, and that makes up for its lack of forward motion. I was expecting Demetri Martin to do his likable comedic schtick, but he really impressed me with an entirely different gaze and speech cadence.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ September 11, 2009
Director Ang Lee starts off with an interesting premise, a glimpse behind the scenes at one of the most spectacular gatherings of the 20th century, but it meanders to a painful halt about halfway through the movie. That's not to say Taking Woodstock doesn't have it's moments, but the majority of the film just doesn't seem to know what it wants to be: a coming-of-age flick for young Demetri Martin, a family dramedy involving wacky/crazy parents, or a demonstration of the culture clash between hippies and farmers as the Woodstock festival gets underway. Covering all these territories spreads the movie thin and makes it feel as if nothing is really happening. Demetri Martin plays the son of two jewish immigrants who run a haphazard motel in the catskills. The parents are caricatured to the point where it's almost impossible to enjoy them as human (the mother in particular seems almost cartoonish). The son also happens to be the president of the local chamber of commerce, and jumps at the chance to host the Woodstock festival when all the neighboring communities reject it. Eugene Levy plays a terrific Max Yasgur, who, for the right price, is all too willing to help out the young people, as long as they "pick up after themselves". Of course the town of Bethel is outraged that the young chamber of commerce president would allow such a nitemare plan to unfold in their community, but this outrage is limited to almost no screen time, save some minor shouting in the local cafe. In that respect, the movie really doesn't live up to it's promise of showing us the town's reaction to the festival. In fact, Ang Lee seems to lose interest in this entire premise about halfway through the film, and decides to shift the focus to the son's sex life and the colorful cast of hippies that stumble into town.
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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 19, 2009
i was 13 when those infamous 3 days of peace and love occurred, which is to say i'd never been there, of course, and the truth is i probably wouldn't've gone if i'd've been of age, and in new york, and in the know. i'd read about it, sure, but still i've always wondered what it was really like, the whole thing taking on a life of it's own, the beatles weren't there (!) but csn and y were. joni wrote a song about it. pete townsend thought he was the greatest thing to rock that was until he saw jimi live and etc., and etc. and etc. woodstock stories abound. ang lee recreate's the vibe of the time in this nostalgic tip-o-the-hat to a generational milestone. the music is not there so much, but maybe because it's somewhere else and plenty, but what's not many places is a sense of just what happened and why. f'instance, i'd always thought of max yaeger, the rube who's farm was co-opted for the event, as a rube, but in this work he comes alive via eugene levy as one savvy dude who recognises a good thing when he sees it. coincidentally, the day i went to see this my buddy rick the 'nam vet was bragging to me on some group, sweetwater, that was supposed to open at woodstock but didn't, excited about knowing about something that i didn't, still thrilled about music 40 years gone...ang lee gets the vibe i think, and the whys and the wherefores don't matter so much.
Super Reviewer
May 31, 2009
Elliot Teichberg: Hello, I need you to connect me to something called Woodstock Ventures.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ April 28, 2009
Merely pleasant period film about how a humble interior decorator sparked a musical revolution by offering the organizers of Woodstock, boarding at his family's dilapidated motel. Director Ang Lee is more interested in the behind the scenes business of putting the event together than the actual concert itself. Random vignettes provide a few warm and amusing bits, however it all adds up to very little. We don't even get to see any musical numbers. Not groovy!
Super Reviewer
December 1, 2010
In 1969, Sonia(Imelda Staunton) and Jake Teichberg(Henry Goodman) are in danger of losing their run down motel in the Catskills to foreclosure when their dutiful son Elliot(Demetri Martin), an artist and designer by trade, persuades the bank to give them a couple of more months, without having to surrender another painting. They are not the only ones in the family to suffer from money problems as Elliot's sister is evicted from her New York City apartment. However, salvation arrives when a Wallkill music festival is forced out. As President of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce, Elliot gives them a permit and a new home at the farm of Max Yasgur(Eugene Levy), maker of the best chocolate milk in the area, which makes Mike(Jonathan Groff), a concert organizer and friend of Elliot's from Bensonhurst, very happy.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 28, 2009
So Ang Lee can't do everything. Comic book movies? Not his thing. And THE ICE STORM notwithstanding, period American milestone character studies not so much either. Paced and written with a laconic and erratic touch, there are tons of swell actors, some giving great performances, all in service of a story with no real center. Both as written and performed, the story revolves around a black hole, and the never really escapes its earthbound pull. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but not terribly good, either. Oh, well - lots of awesome New York stage actors in it; it's worth it just to see 'em!
Super Reviewer
August 22, 2009
Many have been calling this ANG LEE LITE, as if that's a bad thing that he made a kinda charming, subtle, sweet film about a global, earth-changing event. Actually a lot of it isn't too subtle, but neither were the hippies who went down to Yasgur's farm in 1969. This film's greatness is in the details: the wonderfully intense amibition behind the eyes of the seemingly laidback hippie adonis in charge of the event as he tries to close the limo door on our sweet protagonist, the flower in the cop's helmet, and the way Imelda Staunton's mouth seems almost permanently downturned throughout the film. Sure, there's not a helluva lot of character development, and the film completely avoids the actual concert, but it focuses instead on the defining moment of a movement as seen through the growth of a single character...and we clearly see how that generation turned into 80s yuppies so completely. A pretty memorable film.
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