Film Review: Taking Woodstock

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Image from TAKING WOODSTOCK

It provides me little pleasure to report that Director Ang Lee and screenwriter James Schamus’ “Taking Woodstock” is a failure.  Since I attended the event in 1969, I feel it obligatory to state upfront that a “Woodstock” movie without the concert is a situation akin to intense foreplay leading to “coitus interruptus”.  Mr. Lee is guilty of false advertising and if this were a “soap detergent” he would be called before The FTC and ordered to change the title.

“Taking Woodstock” is a coming of age movie that is about as memorable as waiting for a traffic signal to turn green. The story of Eliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) offers very little drama and nothing we haven’t seen in other films rendered so much more poignantly. The story of a closeted gay man and his idiosyncratic Jewish family managing a “flea bag” motel in the Catskills within a mile or so of the world famous event has its touching moments.  The film contains a wonderful performance from Jonathon Groff as Michael Lang. The Michael Lang character exudes the vibe of the 60s as he negotiates at the last minute, with Eliot’s noble assistance, the farm of Max Yasgur for the Woodstock concert that we never see. Liev Schreiber does a notable turn as an ex-marine who dresses in drag and assists Eliot coming to accept his homosexual urges.

Following the edgy “Lust Caution” and the Oscar-awarded “Brokeback Mountain”, Mr. Lee was in the enviable position of making any movie he wanted. Unfortunately he and Schamus adapted a property that should have remained a book. It’s sad to see so much hard work turn into a film that amounts to so little.

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