Most would think a movie about the greatest concert of all time would be as exciting as the music that was performed there, but “Taking Woodstock” did not satisfy the audiences desire for a truly groovy time.
In “Taking Woodstock,” director Ang Lee’s (The Hulk, Brokeback Mountain) historical look at the family that made the iconic concert of the century possible, was surprisingly dull. The flick, which was heavily advertised as a comedy, actually unravels as a very slow moving coming-of-age tale. This comes as no surprise as Ang Lee is not well known for his comedic skills.
Comedy Central’s Demetri Martin stars as Elliot Teichberg, 20-something man from a devout Jewish family struggling to deal with the burdens of running the family business, the El Monaco motel in White Lake, N.Y.
The film opens with Elliot desperately trying to keep his family’s motel out of foreclosure, even going so far as to let a avant-garde theater group called The Earth Light Players live full-time in their ramshackle barn. Throughout the film this theater group provides most of the comedic relief by getting naked and frolicking the grounds at the most inopportune moments.
In an attempt to save the family business, Elliot connects the Woodstock promoters with his friendly neighborhood dairy farmer Max Yasgur, played by Eugene Levy, who in turn convinces the promoters to have the festival on his vast farm.
The whole film has a homoerotic undertone that distracts from the rest of the plot. Liev Schreiber (“Defiance,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) in drag and other strange scenes of sexual tension are spattered throughout the film without any resolution as to the connection with Elliot. The story of the biggest concert of all time was complicated enough without adding those twists.
What’s inspired about the film is Lee’s seamless integration of the most iconic images of Woodstock into the background — the nuns giving the peace sign, the documentary film makers asking various hippies about the Vietnam War and the dancing masses of hippie girls.
Although the movie has several redeeming qualities, the film unfortunately did not live up to the hype. Even if you’re a Woodstock enthusiast, you can wait for this film on DVD — don’t waste your money.
Movie reviewer Laura James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.