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Taking Woodstock


Rated: R for graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language.
Release Date: 2009-08-28
Starring: James Schamus
Film Genre:
Country: USA
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Taking Woodstock

I’ve always felt that Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee can do anything.  A director as versatile as they come, Lee refuses to be pigeonholed to any one genre and be restricted by the technological challenges of a film.

Think about this: Lee has gone from the experimentation and liberalism that defined the 1970s (Ice Storm, 1997), to the adventures of a young woman in feudal China (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000), to the biggest and baddest hero of the Marvel universe (Hulk, 2003) to an Oscar award winning cowboy drama (Brokeback Mountain, 2005).  How’s that for range?

But fearlessly stepping out of your comfort zone has its risks. Lee has made his share of forgettable movies and with ‘Taking Woodstock’ he maybe adding to that list.

Based on the memoirs of Elliot Tiber, the comedy stars Demetri Martin as Elliot, who inadvertently played a role in making 1969’s Woodstock Music and Arts Festival into the famed happening it was.  When his parents are in danger of losing their dumpy motel in the Catskills, Elliot offers it up to the festival promoters to generate some much needed business. 

In the end however, the film is about the peculiar relationship with his overbearing parents.  The rock n’ roll, the drugs, the mud slides, and everything else we’ve come to know about Woodstock plays second fiddle and is ultimately nothing more than a backdrop, a setting for what is otherwise a family drama with very little at stake. 

Regrettably, something about the performances doesn’t seem as sincere as some of the others we’ve seen in other movies set in that time period.  But I won’t pin all the blame squarely on the actors.  Mr. Lee stumbles but doesn’t fall.

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