Taking Woodstock

Read an interview with the director here

After the back-to-back bleakness of  ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Lust, Caution’, Ang Lee takes a well-deserved breather with this breezy, none-too-rigorous investigation into the men behind the iconic music festival. On one hand it’s a featherlight, surprisingly broad comedy which swallows the hippie-dream propaganda whole; on the other it’s a winningly un-cynical, warmly nostalgic tale of simple self-discovery.

Gay, Jewish and desperately seeking purpose, Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) leaves his liberated NYC existence to help his parents with their crumbling rustic motel upstate. Hearing about a major rock festival seeking a home, Elliott offers his small hometown as a venue, the motel as mission control and his own services as local liaison.

Anyone with an ounce of scepticism about the hippie myth will be infuriated by ‘Taking Woodstock’, a film so starry-eyed and winsome it would make Joni Mitchell blush. But leave those preconceptions at the door and there’s a lot to enjoy here: hipster stand-up Martin is agreeably off-kilter in his first feature role, backed  by a dizzying array of memorable supporting players, notably Imelda Staunton channeling Mel Brooks as Elliot’s crotchety, Nazi-obsessed mother and Brit theatre and TV actor Henry Goodman in a remarkable turn as put-upon dad Jake.

But the real star is Lee’s direction. Goosing Godard with an epic track through traffic, loading the screen with whirling naked bodies, withholding the epic scale of the festival until Elliot (and the cinematography) are blitzed to the gills on LSD, this may be a minor movie, but it displays the hallmarks of a major talent.

Read an interview with the director here

Release details

Release date: Wednesday September 23 2009
Duration: 120 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ang Lee
Screenwriter: James Schamus
Cast: Demetri Martin
Henry Goodman
Imelda Staunton
Emile Hirsch
Liev Schreiber
Eugene Levy
Jonathan Groff
Paul Dano
Kelli Garner
Jeffrey Dean Morgan