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Taking Woodstock
DVD disk
12.23.2009 By: Aaron the H
Taking Woodstock order download
Director:
Ang Lee

Actors:
Demitri Martin
Imelda Staunton
Liev Schreiber

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young man trying to save his family’s failing motel in 1969 comes up with the idea of bringing the Woodstock Music Fest to his tiny NY town. Based on a true story.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Ang Lee is one of those rare directors, like Marc Forster and Steven Spielberg, that seems to effortlessly move between genres with each film he tackles. He tackled ancient martial arts in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, gay cowboys and forbidden love in Brokeback Mountain, and a big, angry green dude in The Hulk, and now, for his latest trick, Ang Lee tackles…hippies, stoners, nudists, trannies and grouchy old Jews! So how'd he do?

At the center of the story is Elliot Tiber, played with appropriate aloofness and gentle innocence by comedian Demitri Martin. Elliot has spent his whole life stuck in a small town in the Catskills filled with older, more traditional folk who aren’t accustomed to things like drugs, rock music, and thousands of flower children. So when Elliot finally comes to the realization that he’ll never be able to leave the bubble, he offers to host a little music festival on a neighbor’s farm. That little festival becomes Woodstock, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While Martin does fine as the film’s lead, he’s noticeably less colorful and interesting than the wonderful supporting cast, featuring the likes of Emile Hirsch as a tortured Vietnam vet, Liev Schreiber as a very non-tortured vet-turned-transvestite, Dan Fogler as the head of a whacked-out theatre troupe, and Eugene Levy as the farmer who ends up hosting the event. The wide array of characters is what makes the film watchable, as narrative is, like the array of hippies who inhabit the film, somewhat aimless and wandering by the time it gets to the third act.

The comedy and fun found in the first half of the film slowly start to fade as the drug usage increases and the focus shifts toward Eliot’s journey of self-discovery. And even though I liked his character and can sympathize a bit with his plight, for some reason I just lost interest as the film pushed on.

I was also a bit letdown by the way Lee and the film’s screenplay dealt with the conflict between the few dozen old-school, adult members of the town and the young, counter-culture hippies that swept in by the hundreds of thousands during the Summer of ’69. Long story short, the film villainizes the townsfolk and romanticizes the youth movement, which I thought was a bit unfair and too simplistic an approach. While the first half of the film deals with the conflict heavily, the second half nearly forgets about this theme entirely, leaving it basically unresolved.

But hey, on the bright side...lotta boobs and bush to be seen here folks (and yes ladies, a healthy dose of cock n' balls too).
THE EXTRAS
Deleted Scenes (6:43) - One short scene and two fairly substantial ones, which they probably coulda kept in the film.

Peace, Love and Cinema (19:24) - A fairly standard but pretty entertaining behind-the-scenes featurette, containing interviews with Ang Lee, most of the cast, and one of the real people the film was based on. If you dug the film or are a big Woodstock fan, give it a go.

Feature Commentary by director Ang Lee and writer/producer James Schamus - Ang and James have worked together many times and as a result, have a nice dynamic here. An informative track that these two guys try to have fun with.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Taking Woodstock is a fun-loving, watchable flick that suffers only from trying to tell too many stories at once. Not very dramatic and not extremely funny, at least it offers a fascinating, little-known story that may have just saved the most famous music festival of all time.
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