Taking Woodstock is typical of director Ang Lee: beautifully shot and compellingly acted yet somewhat plodding. Lee, who won an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain (another gorgeous, sad and painfully slow film), seems to favor nature shots – very long nature shots – and fans of that will not be disappointed.
True to form, Lee just takes his time to allow anything substantial to happen. The plot of Taking Woodstock is not, as one might believe, the story of the concert itself; Jimi, Janis and Jerry play an almost imperceptible role in the film. Rather, Taking Woodstock is the story of how the concert came to be, of how one exasperated young man attempted to save his parents’ failing upstate motel and the musical event of a generation at the same time.
Demetri Martin’s trademark deadpan is utilized well by Lee — instead of being the film’s driving force, he allows the action to happen around him. An almost unrecognizable Imelda Staunton is his mother, a bitter Russian émigré, and Emile Hirsch is wonderful as a Vietnam veteran haunted by his experiences. However, the best performances by far belong to Liev Schreiber as a cross-dressing Marine and Jonathan Groff as the concert’s head organizer.
Rating: 3/4 stars
Starring: Demetri Martin, Jonathan Groff, Liev Schreiber
Directed By: Ang Lee