Written by Hombre Divertido
In Taking Woodstock Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee tries to give us roughly two hours of light-hearted antics in what is essentially a fish-out-of-water tale as hundreds of thousands of hippies descend on White Lakes New York in 1969 for a concert that would define a generation. Unfortunately the screenplay by James Schamus based on the book by Elliot Tiber only provides seventy-five minutes of interesting storytelling, and like a VW bug running out of gas, Taking Woodstock sputters and stalls.
Though Demitri Martin has limited emotional range as Elliot Teichberg, the young man who brings the powers that be behind Woodstock to his small town in hopes of boosting business for the locals, which include his parents and their rundown motel, Martin does manage to give the audience what it needs as a young man with genuine innocence who is smarter than those around him. In certain scenes Martin says nothing but manages to communicate much with looks worthy of Bob Newhart standing behind the front desk at the Stratford Inn.
As we watch young Elliot go through the challenges associated with such a monumentous undertaking, and dealing with a zoo full of eccentric characters, we certainly find him endearing and root for him to get over every roadblock, but the eventual lack of development of the supporting characters and story as a whole begins to test the patience of the audience.
The supporting cast does well with what they are given, and certainly creates some wonderful moments, but, as the movie gets sidetracked along with Elliot on his way to the concert, the audience finds itself longing for more of the characters we have come to appreciate, and seeing them experience the actual concert may have been a more entertaining choice.
Like Elliot, the audience never really gets to the concert, and the footage that we see of the general area surrounding the concert looks far too sparse and open compared to documentary footage seen over the years, and thus fails to generate the feeling of being in the crowd accomplished by other projects. Despite the disappointing footage of the concert area, the film does manage to put you back in the sixties with costuming, sets, props, and character portrayals. The soundtrack on the other hand falls a bit short considering the library of influential music available.
Recommendation: Watching Elliot come of age and begin to find himself, while surrounded by fun characters of that era, Taking Woodstock is certainly enjoyable, but the storytellers become conflicted as to which story to tell, and eventually fail on both fronts. It will make a pleasant DVD rental, but is not worthy of your summer-movie-going dollar.