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Taking Woodstock

Taking Woodstock

2.7 4
Director: Ang Lee,

Cast: Ang Lee, Demetri Martin, Dan Fogler, Imelda Staunton


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Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee tells the story of the Greenwich Village interior designer who inadvertently helped to spark a cultural revolution by offering the organizers of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival boarding at his family's Catskills motel. The year is 1969. Change is brewing in America, and the energy in Greenwich


Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee tells the story of the Greenwich Village interior designer who inadvertently helped to spark a cultural revolution by offering the organizers of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival boarding at his family's Catskills motel. The year is 1969. Change is brewing in America, and the energy in Greenwich Village is palpable. Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) is working as an interior designer when he discovers that a high-profile concert has recently lost its permit from the nearby town of Wallkill, NY. Emboldened by the burgeoning gay rights movement yet still tied to tradition in the form of the family business -- a Catskills motel called the El Monaco -- Tiber phones producer Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) at Woodstock Ventures and offers boarding to the harried concert crew. Later, as the Woodstock Ventures staff begans arriving in droves, half a million concertgoers make their way to Max Yasgur's (Eugene Levy) adjacent farm in White Lake, NJ, to witness the counterculture celebration that would ultimately make history as one of the greatest events in the annals of rock & roll. Imelda Staunton, Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber, and Paul Dano co-star.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
Director Ang Lee and screenwriter James Schamus use a transformative event in American pop-culture history as a springboard to explore one man's personal growth, and they do so with gentle humor and nuance in Taking Woodstock. A surprisingly intimate drama given that it deals with such a monumental event, the film captures the excitement and energy of Woodstock, yet never loses sight of the deeply personal tale it sets out to tell. With rock-solid performances from everyone including relative newcomer Demetri Martin, and a refreshingly subtle score from Danny Elfman, it's a relaxed comedy drama that speaks directly to our need to accept social change or remain forever imprisoned by our own prejudice. It's the summer of '69. Elliot Teichberg (Martin) is an interior designer working in Greenwich Village. When he's in the city, he feels empowered by the gay rights movement; when he goes home to the Catskills, he feels alienated and isolated by the small-minded locals. Nevertheless, his parents' ramshackle motel is about to be foreclosed on, and in order to save it, Elliot returns home for the summer. He's planning a small music festival when he learns that the promoters of a proposed music and arts festival in nearby Wallkill have lost their permit. Instinctively, Elliot calls Woodstock Ventures producer Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff), who's planning a substantial outdoor concert featuring Janis Joplin, among others, with an offer to use of his family's land and accommodations. Unfortunately, the land is all swamp, but thankfully Elliot's neighbor Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), a progressive-minded farmer, is more than happy to host the festival on his 600-acre dairy farm. Though the townspeople are aghast, the hippies soon begin rolling in, bringing the spirit of the free-love era with them as Elliot does his best just to keep things running smoothly. They say that you don't really know someone until you've seen how they respond to a crisis, and when his community goes up in arms at the idea of being overrun by counterculture weirdos, Elliot himself doesn't even seem to know how he'll react. But Elliot is about to discover just how strong he can really be. The part of Elliot Teichberg isn't an easy one, yet Martin is a natural in his first leading role. Reposeful and assured, he stands strong at the center of the storm, even when occupying the screen alongside such formidable talents as Imelda Staunton and Liev Schreiber. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a director of the caliber of Oscar winner Lee guiding your performance when it's your first big film role, but Martin plays every beat just about to perfection, including a brief yet crucial moment with his onscreen father (Henry Goodman, endearingly naturalistic) late in the film. Likewise, it's great to see Eugene Levy in something other than a terrible straight-to-video sequel or an inadvertently frightening family film. His role here may be small, but he manages to do quite a bit with it in a scene where he reflects on his reason for renting out his land. As solid as the performances may be, Taking Woodstock could have easily faltered by failing to capture the true spirit of the era. With Lee at the helm and cinematographer Éric Gautier manning the camera, however, the details are just right. Not only does the duo create a fitting companion piece to the Woodstock concert film by occasionally employing the split-screen style that helped give that Oscar-winning documentary its distinctive look, but they also use grainy film stock and natural light in a way that gives the movie a convincing air of authenticity, which perfectly compliments Schamus' artfully refined script. Given that the primary conflict of the film is an internal one, the story unfolds at the kind of patient, leisurely pace that may seem deceptively trivial at first glance, but allows us to truly understand and appreciate the protagonist's dilemma by giving us the time to get to know him. Though anyone seeking to bask in iconic recreations of key Woodstock moments is bound to be disappointed by the fact that we never once see the performers (and only hear their music from a distance), Taking Woodstock isn't about the spectacle but the seeds of change that were planted as a result. It succeeds in large part thanks to its amicability, and its message of acceptance makes it an irrefutable product of the time when a generation came together in an attempt to enact genuine social change.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Focus Features
[Wide Screen]
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound, Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Demetri Martin Elliot Tiber
Dan Fogler Devon
Imelda Staunton Sonia Teichberg
Emile Hirsch Billy
Eugene Levy Max Yasgur
Jonathan Groff Michael Lang
Henry Goodman Jake Teichberg
Jeffrey Dean Morgan Dan
Adam Le Fevre Dave
Kevin Chamberlain Jackson Spiers
Boris McGiver Doug
Paul Dano VW Guy
Kelli Garner VW Girl
Clark Middleton Frank
Christina Kirk Carol
Sondra James Margaret
Kevin Sussman Stan
Spadaque Volcimus Hippie Guy
Pippa Pearthree Miriam
Andy Prosky Bob
Gabriel Sunday Steven
Jeremy Shamos Steve Cohen
Liev Schreiber Vilma
Malachy Cleary Wes Pomeroy
Katherine Waterston Penny
David Wilson Barnes News Reporter
Patrick Cupo Charlie
Mamie Gummer Tisha
Skylar Astin John Roberts
Bette Henritze Annie
Stephen Kunken Mel
Will Janowitz Chip Monck
Louisa Krause Hippie Girl

Technical Credits
Ang Lee Director,Producer
Joseph G. Aulisi Costumes/Costume Designer
Joe Boyd Musical Direction/Supervision
Celia Costas Producer
Patrick Cupo Associate Producer
David Lee Associate Producer
Danny Elfman Score Composer
Éric Gautier Cinematographer
David Gropman Production Designer
Michael Hausman Executive Producer
Avy Kaufman Casting
Peter Rogness Art Director
David Sauers Associate Producer
James Schamus Producer,Screenwriter
Tim Squyres Editor

Scene Index

Deleted scenes, including three only on blu-ray; Peace, love and cinema; Feature commentary with director Ang Lee and writer James Schamus


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Taking Woodstock 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
JCWilkerson More than 1 year ago
Based on a true story, Taking Woodstock follows the story of Elliot Tiechberg (Demetri Martin), who helps his parents (Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman) with their failing motel in the Catskills. Out of money as he's fueled it into the motel to keep it running, he finds an opportunity in bringing Woodstock to the Catskills after it's been kicked out of it's original home, and a deal for it to appear in a neighboring town falls through. Faced with opposition, Elliot procedes to bring Woodstock to the Catskills, an opportunity that changes his life, and his relationship with his parents. Ang Lee, as well as his frequent collaborator James Schamus, have carved out a niche for themselves creating art house dramas based on around the central theme of outsiders trying to find their place in a world that's constantly changing around them. To be honest, I have never been a big fan of Lee's, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Hulk to Brokeback Mountain I've always found him to be slightly overrated even if he does pull great performances from his actors. Honestly, I have to say that I enjoyed Lee's newest film. Now don't get me wrong, even with Brokeback Mountain I didn't find myself impressed, I just felt that the story of a forbidden relationship in the midst of changing and turbulent times has been done before and has been done better. With his other films, I just found them lacking, but with this one it felt a little closer to home than what I'm used to from Lee. Another thing that really adds to this movie is the acting. No one really stands out, everyone just fits in their posts. Demetri Martin, best known for his currently running Comedy Central show delivers a very understated performance as Elliot, as does Eugene Levy in the role of Max Yasgur, the man who allows Woodstock to play on his land. Once again, Liev Schreiber dons drag for his role in this film as he did in Mixed Nuts (and steals the movie in drag as he did in Mixed Nuts as well). But one of the great things here is the fact that no one really stands out, everyone shines or blends together. Honestly, though, and this is awkward for a Lee film, this flick begins to feel a little scattered. The first act is fairly tight, but as time goes on the film begins to feel less taut. In the third act it seems to unravel, not just in the form of the characters lives unraveling, but because the film itself unraveling. One particular instance of this is a subplot that reveals Elliot is gay, but it is never spoken. I would typically not argue about this if a film made it clear, but it's never truly mentioned in the film. In my opinion it really just seemed that Elliot is bi-sexual in the film, but in life the real Elliot is a homosexual. It would seem to me that the film should have done a better job of portraying him as so, and this is just once case All in all, I enjoyed this film. It's not a great film, but it's not a horrible film either. If you're interested in Woodstock, and what went on behind the scenes rather than just the concert itself and how lives were affected I highly recommend this film. If you're looking for films in the vein of other Ang Lee movies this might not be the film for you though overall. Either way I recommend you at least give it a try, in my honest opinion it's a lot of fun.
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