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).
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.