Thursday, September 3, 2009

Taking Woodstock - On A Strange Ride

Well, all I can say about the film is that is slightly entertaining! I can't blame Ang Lee for this. He has directed some great movies like Broke Back Mountain, and Sense and Sensibility. And the film flows well, just not in any particular direction.

You would think from the title that is some comedic portrayal of historical events. But it isn't. It also is not really about the concert itself, it is not even really about the town of Bethel, NY. ( Which if you weren't aware of this fact, is where the concert actually took place. Woodstock was the original spot chosen, but by the time event promotions were under way, the town backed out. )

The film is basically about a Jewish family who ran a seedy run down motel called the "El Monaco". Supposedly based on the true life story of Elliot Tiber, played by Comedy Central's Demitri Martin, who inadvertently opens the door for the concerts promoters, by putting them in touch with the now infamous Max Yasgur and his farm.

In all fairness the performances were solid, Demitri busts his acting cherry in a very convincing performance as Eli, a young Jewish man who seems torn between old school family values, and yearning to experince the rest of the world for himself.

Imelda Staunton, who by now needs no introduction, delivers a hilarious performance as Eli's paranoid and oppressive Russian mother, who cuts corners to save money anyway she can, while being the iron handed dictator of this run down empire.

Sadly, Eugene Levy who is a comic genius, who generally plays annoying passive aggressive characters is only minorly factored into the story line at the beginning , as Max Yasgur, and then once the concert plans are under way is virtually not heard from again.

The rest of the film's cast pretty much blends into the background as does the plot of the film, with a few exceptions. Liev Schreiber delivers a rather intriguing performance as Vilma an ex- Korean War marine. Vilma who is now a transvestite, is there to give a counter balance of Zen wisdom to Eli's overwhelming plight in the middle of this maelstrom that is the organizing of this cultural extravaganza and trying to deal with his demented parents.

Jonathan Groff who has basically down very little other than a few Soap Opera episodes, plays the legendary producer of Woodstock, Michael Lang, the ultimate hippie Zen master. He delivers a compelling performance, but again , since the film is not about the concert itself, you see very little of him, except to occasionally punctuate the fact the Eli's is a long and fantastic journey.

But I suppose that if you were there or even alive at the time, you might get a little sentimental nostalgia for this trip down memory lane, but otherwise I would suggest the use of psychedelic substances. The film has it's moments, but I would recommend watching the actual movie that was made from the actual concert footage, which is available now in a few anniversary formats.

I would say wait for it on DVD, and even then, just rent it.

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