Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Taking Woodstock

Release Date: August 28th, 2009

Click here for the Taking Woodstock Trailer.

Elliot Tiber(Demetri Martin) is a young, aspiring interior designer living in Greenwich Village, New York. In the summer of 1969, Elliot moves back to upstate New York to help his parents, Sonia Teichberg(Imelda Staunton) and Jack Teichberg(Henry Goodman), run their dilapidated Catskills motel called The El Monaco. Things are not going good for the El Monaco. The bank wants to foreclose, Elliot's father wants to burn the place down but can't because he hasn't paid the insurance and Elliot is caught in the middle.

Elliot hears that a neighboring town has pulled the permit for a music festival and that people are outraged and looking for a place to hold the festival. Elliot calls the producers of the show, hoping to bring in some much needed business to the motel. The producers come in and inspect the area but refuse when it is discovered that the field behind the motel is nothing more than a swamp. Elliot then takes the producers to his neighbor, Max Yasgur's(Eugene Levey) farm. Max and his wife have always been fans of the music festival Elliot puts on every year and agree to hold the concert on their farm for a small amount of $5,000.

Producer of Woodstock Michael Lang(Jonathan Groff) begins preparations for the concert and decides to use Elliot's motel as the head base of operations, paying Elliot cash in advance for all the rooms they need. Elliot and his parents begin selling tickets for the event from their motel which brings in more guests and visitors and untold revenue to the motel. While getting everything ready for the event, Michael decides that Elliot should be the official town representative for the event and that he needs to do a press conference to discuss the show. Elliot is extremely nervous before the interview and begins talking with Michael's assistant(Mamie Gummer) who gives Elliot marijuana to calm him down. During the interview Elliot, in his stoned stupor, begins talking about freedom which makes people think Woodstock is now a free concert. After the interview, a half million people begin making their way to The El Monaco hotel and Max Yasgur's farm.

As more and more people begin coming to the motel, the Teichberg's begin quadrupling up rooms, which the "hippies" coming to the concert don't seem to mind. But things begin to get crazy with the sheer amount of people coming. When things seem like they are getting out of hand, Vilma(Liev Schreiber), a transvestite prostitute sent to Elliot by a "friend", steps to help out Elliot's parents with security forming a close friendship with Elliot's father. As more and more people arrive at Woodstock and Elliot's motel, the crazier and more stressful things get for him, including trying to keep his friend Billy(Emile Hirsch), a recently returned Vietnam vet from flipping out and trying to keep the theater troupe in his barn from taking their clothes off. Vilma finally sits Elliot down and shows him that even his parents, who have been miserable for the last couple of years, are coming around and having a great time. Vilma and Elliot's father then force Elliot to actually go to the concert he has worked so hard to help happen. Elliot traverses the 500,000 people in his attempt to make it to the show. Along the way he meets a couple who gives him acid at which point he stays in their van for the night.

As Woodstock comes to a close, Elliot finally realizes the point to Woodstock and everything going on around him. he sees how happy his parents are and how happy all the people around him are. His parents are accepting of him and have found true happiness in life and overall the festival was a huge success and Elliot is finally at peace.

I frequently enjoy seeing movies that aren't the huge blockbusters that everybody is raving about. It gives me a refreshing and relaxing time at the cinema that I enjoy very much. Taking Woodstock is one such experience. This film wasn't set to top anything like Transformers or Star Trek. It wasn't made to bring in huge crowds and tons of money. It was made for the sole reason to entertain, which I think is something missing in many recent films.

stand-up comedian Demetri Martin takes to the big screen for the first time in this Ang Lee adaptation of the biggest concert event in history. The plot itself is simple enough to follow. Woodstock's first choice of venue gets canceled because of the hippie hatred of the town and a man looking for some extra cash steps in and has the concert in his town. You won't find huge names like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt in this film, though the cast is one of the best I have seen. Demetri Martin's character was slightly dull and boring, being very soft spoken and calm for a majority of the movie. But what Martin lacked in pizazz was made up by the performances of Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman, who played Elliot's parents. Staunton and Goodman played and elderly Jewish couple who speak broken English and who don't put up with crap from anybody. These two performers brought the energy to the movie. Most of the time the two were arguing with somebody or chasing them away with baseball bats.

There were also good performances from Liev Schreiber, who played a very large and muscular transvestite and from Jonathan Groff, who played the part of Woodstock Producer Michael Lang. Groff's character was probably my favorite character to watch. His performance made his character seem unreal. I was always waiting for him to float away or ascend into the heavens, especially after he randomly rode in on a white horse which came out of nowhere. He was calm and cool through the whole film which in fact relaxed me when I watched it. Eugene Levey and Emile Hirsch played their respective roles well, adding to the great cast.

I also enjoyed the plot for the most part. It was a very interesting take on how Woodstock came to be how we know it. Based off of the book by the real Elliot Tiber, this film was something different. However there were a few things I didn't like about the film.

One of the main things I didn't like about the film was how they incorporated Elliot's homosexuality. Now I'm not in any way against a character in a movie being gay, even if it is the main character. However, I felt that the way they added Elliot being gay in the film, even though he was in real life, was pointless. It seemed like they put it in just because. To me it didn't really have anything to do with the plot of the film and didn't do anything to further the movie. I also expected more from Demetri Martin himself. Martin is a brilliant stand-up comedian and I expected him to be pouring out the laughs but I didn't really see any of that from him. Ang Lee put a stand-up comedian in the main role of a comedy movie but made the main character the more serious role. For me it didn't seem to fit right.

But overall this wasn't a bad movie. It was a refreshing film to watch amongst the multi-billion dollar, CGI infested box office mega movies. A good cast which delivered stellar performances along with a compelling story makes this film worth your while. While it won't be topping off the box office or being raved about by everybody and their mother, you should still take the time to sit down and enjoy this refreshing film. I give Taking Woodstock 7.5 Crazy Theater Troupes out of 10.

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