Taking Woodstock (Review)

Ang Lee takes on Woodstock ... and loses

Aug 26, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Ang Lee’s clumsy adaptation of Elliot Tibers and Tom Monte’s book Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Lift can't decide if it wants to be a comedy, a drama or merely a slice-of-life reflection on a small-town community transformed by a cultural happening in 1969.

Demetri Martin steps lightly around his closeted gay Jewish character Elliot Teichberg, who movies back in with his parents at their ramshackle motel, the El Monaco, in the Catskills, N.Y. Intent on protecting his parents from looming bankruptcy, Elliot seeks out music producer Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) after hearing that an adjacent town has lost its permit to host his music and arts festival. Biting off considerably more than he, his parents and his community can chew isn't so much of a problem for Elliot as it is a mild storm to be weathered so that he can grow into the person he needs to be.

Imelda Staunton does some great character work as Elliot's domineering mother Sonia, but her efforts are unrewarded by the material, as are underdeveloped secondary roles well sketched by Emile Hirsch and Liev Schreiber.

Unforgivable is the film’s neglect of the musical element that any movie about Woodstock should necessarily have. There are flashes of inspiration here, but nothing to sustain a feature film’s worth of narrative import. Grade: C

Opens Aug. 26. Check out theaters and show times, see the film's trailer and get theater details here.