taking woodstockAs a movie about the most important music festival of it’s (and arguably any) generation, Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock mostly falls flat, despite several memorable performances from some unlikely sources and enough scenes that will make viewers warm inside. The film gets lost in its ambition by largely ignoring the music and by concentrating too much on Elliot Tiber’s coming of age.

Tiber (Demetri Martin) and his family are on the verge of bankruptcy in their Catskills, NY motel. Upon hearing that another town rejected Woodstock, Tiber decides to bring the music festival to his neighbor’s farm in White Lake. Although the festival plans go smoothly, Tiber faces some harsh backlash from those in the local community, who don’t want hippies running their town. Despite this, they persevere, etc, etc.

During the preparation phase, Imelda Staunton, as Tiber’s overbearing Jewish mother, and Liev Schreiber, as the cross dressing security guard Vilma, provide some great bits. However, the film takes a dive into the schmaltz pit during Woodstock itself. From his desire to break free of his family to an acid trip with a guy in a VW (Paul Dano), the film loses its focus by making the audience experience the festival from Tiber’s perspective.  Not a single group is shown performing on stage, and it’s frustrating that the film does little to acknowledge the sheer importance of the music. Anyone with fond memories of Woodstock or those expecting a movie about its social and musical implications would do better to check elsewhere.

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