Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee) - 2009

I was in the United States Navy boot camp in San Diego, California in August 1969 when the Woodstock Music & Art Festival was taking place in Bethel, New York on Max Yasgur's farm.  Director Ang Lee was a 14-year-old high school student in Taiwan.  What does he know about Woodstock?  Lee's "Taking Woodstock" portrays the festival as a huge traffic jam of vehicles and people living in filthy conditions with inadequate restroom facilities and a very poor food & drink distribution system, as well as the random electrical shocks that occur when muddy water meets a makeshift power grid.  In retrospect, boot camp was not that bad.

The movie does a good job of recreating scenes from the 1970 Woodstock documentary by Michael Wadleigh.  However, the accompanying story is weak and unbelievable.  Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) is the president of the nearby White Lake Chamber of Commerce, and an aspiring interior designer who is trying to help his parents run the very seedy El Monaco Motel.  His dysfunctional parents (especially Mom) are going to lose the property unless it starts to rain money (hence the drive to locate the festival near White Lake).  In addition to the town folk, the cast of characters includes Liev Schreiber as a transvestite bodyguard, Emile Hirsch as a very confused Vietnam vet, Jonathan Groff as the groovy organizer, and the various members of that starving acting group that lives in the barn.

This movie is not funny.  Schreiber is totally out of place here.  Elliot's parents are irritating and basically strange.  Rent the documentary. [JAM 9/2/2009]