Taking Woodstock is entertaining, funny but also very slight film.
The 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival has been commemorated with several events, books, exhibitions and a sold out concert overlooking the original site, and Ang Lee has jumped on the bandwagon with this adaptation of a memoir written by one of the instigators of the festival.
Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) is an aspiring Greenwich Village interior designer who has ploughed every bit of his cash into his parents' small and dilapidated motel. They're so hard up that they're forced to let a semi-naked hippie theatre troupe rent their barn.
After hearing that the organisers of the Woodstock Festival face opposition to the originally planned location, he offers his permit and motel accommodation, much to the chagrin of the other locals who think the incoming hippies will rob them and "rape our farm animals."
Ang Lee is a director with a great deal of variety to his CV, so while this change in direction shouldn't be too surprising, this light, funny and enjoyable film about the people behind one of the most important and influential events in pop history inevitably won't have the same impact as his more dramatic work.
Imelda Staunton is fantastic as Elliot's Jewish immigrant mother who's tight with guests and even tighter with her money, delivering some genuinely hilarious one liners. Liev Schreiber dons a blonde wig, floral dresses and espadrilles as an army vet transvestite hired to protect the Tiber family from local vultures after a slice of the pie, and although he plays it completely straight, it works.
Demetri Martin's usual vocation is as a stand-up comedian, and while he's a likeable character he doesn't entirely command the attention as a leading man. The way in which his burgeoning homosexuality is swept under the rug also becomes frustrating.
Even though the festival is the backdrop for the film, precious little is actually shown. That may have been the point without even a taste of the music the film's middle section drags, leading to a climax that is more whimper than bang.
Taking Woodstock is entertaining, funny but also very slight film. Unlike the real Woodstock, it won't change lives or burn in the memory.
A glimpse at the making of music's premier event told through Ang Lee's watchful eye.
Funny and immensely enjoyable.
For all its visual splendour and enjoyable content it won't leave a lasting imprint.