Taking Woodstock movie review: The vibe is definitely happening, but the signature tunes and sense of portent are missing in Taking Woodstock.
This is Woodstock from another perspective — one without Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. Perhaps this version is closer in spirit to what Joni Mitchell later sang about (but didn't herself experience): the anticipation while heading up to Max Yasgur's farm in August 1969, the desire to be a cog in something turning.
Though director Ang Lee vibrantly captures the era, his focus on the mechanics of putting together the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival is juxtaposed with a humdrum coming-of-age tale. Setting this prosaic personal tale amid such a resonant socio-cultural event only intensifies the wan nature of the main story.
If anyone can fashion a great movie, it's the monumentally talented Lee. He has said that after making so many tragic films —TheIce Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain —he sought to direct a comedy that lacked cynicism. He has done that, but he also has made a surprisingly bland film.
There is undoubtedly a great movie in the Woodstock experience. This particular take, based on the memoirs of Elliot Tiber, isn't it.
Without intending to, Elliot (Demetri Martin) becomes a key player in the making of the festival. An interior designer living in Greenwich Village, Elliot goes to the Catskills to help his parents save their run-down motel. He hears city officials in a neighboring town have nixed a permit for a music festival and lobbies to host it as a way to drum up business. When his family's land is unsuitable, Yasgur's neighboring dairy farm proves ideal.
Elliot's family figures prominently, particularly his rigid mother (Imelda Staunton). But Martin's casting is problematic. Though mildly engaging, he doesn't have the acting range or convey the charisma to play the pivotal role. Liev Schrieber has a more intriguing role as a cross-dressing ex-Marine, as does Emile Hirsch as a jangled Vietnam vet.Box office: Taking Woodstock grossed $3,457,760 during its opening weekend, opening at #9. After five and a half weeks in theaters, on October 1, 2009, the film's total worldwide box office gross was $8,695,829.
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