Taking Woodstock Movie Review
If there's one director who doesn't stick to a single style or genre, it is Ang Lee. The director has achieved "acclaimed" status for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, but he also done everything from superhero adaptations (the much reviled Hulk), Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility) and political dramas (Lust, Caution). So, it was only fitting that the Taiwanese director take on something near and dear to his heart: Woodstock.
Taking Woodstock tells the tale of the family responsible for bringing the infamous festival to the Catskills. It's apparently based on a true story to some degree or another. Demetri Martin stars as Elliot Tiber, the son of two very Jewish parents (played by Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman) who run a down-and-out hotel that is on the verge of bankruptcy. When Elliot hears of a small music festival looking for a home, he jumps at the chance, unaware that within weeks the place will be overrun by half a million hippies.
Is the movie a comedy or a drama? That's the big question, and one I can't answer. It's too lighthearted to be a drama, and yet not nearly funny enough to be a comedy. Unfortunately, this ambiguity means Taking Woodstock is an incredibly bland movie with very little to it.
Martin, a comedian, holds his own as best he can, but his wide-eyed performance can only go so far. He, along with the rest of the cast, seem confused by how they've been stuck in a movie that gives them so little range; Staunton is the only one who gets to have any kind of fun, and even she, an Oscar-winning actress, gets to play nothing more than an annoying caricature. Paul Dano, Emile Hirsch and Liev Schreiber, among others, are completely wasted.
As dull as the story is, Ang Lee's direction only shows moments of cleverness, all of which come in a five-minute segment where Elliot is high on LSD. "That 70's Show" had better drug segments. Sadly, Taking Woodstock is shockingly harmless; it lacks edge, depth and intrigue. Taking Woodstock is one Ang Lee movie you can skip... It's becoming a bit of a trend, isn't it?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.