Life + Arts

Comedy looks beyond music

Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock recreates one of the greatest moments in rock and roll history, while telling an individual story about sexuality and family dynamics.

The main story follows Elliot, (Demetri Martin) a closet-gay painter who struggles under his oppressive parents as he tries to help them out of debt. He is also trying to move to California, despite his family’s struggles.

Elliot sees an opportunity to boost the economy of his town and his family when a nearby hippie music festival is canceled. He unwittingly unleashes the iconic Woodstock music bash on his town, and soon, the chaos of Woodstock ensues and Elliot and his town are changed forever.

Music fans may be somewhat disappointed that the movie has little to do with the sounds of Woodstock. The iconic tunes of Woodstock are reduced to vaguely familiar murmurings of indistinguishable hippie rock, which pepper the background throughout the second half of the film.

Taking Woodstock tells the story of Woodstock through the depiction of hippie counter culture. Lee doesn’t shy away from boldly portraying full-frontal nudity of both genders, open sexuality, a choice smattering of drug use and pseudo-philosophy.

The cinematography ranges from sweeping views of Bethel’s beautiful landscape to an ocean of dirty hippies that mimics archival footage.

These shots are sometimes marred by Lee’s picture editing, which viewers first saw in his 2003 flop Hulk.

In Taking Woodstock, the editing appears to be more appropriate and effective.

Displaying multiple pictures adds to the chaos and confusion, because it captures multiple occurrences at once. This also extends the visual narrative past the individual story of Elliot to the story of Woodstock.

Taking Woodstock raises the question of what is Woodstock all about?

The film dares the viewer to figure out if it is a period piece about Woodstock and the ’60s, a story of culture clash between hippies and small town citizens, or a character study of Elliot and his struggle to define himself.

Taking Woodstock doesn’t reach far into any of these themes, bouncing between events and characters without expanding past the obvious.

The film entertains audiences for its entirety (90 minutes), but those who want to learn about the actual historical event should rent a documentary instead.

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