You'd have to be hiding under a rock not to know that August was the fortieth anniversary of a little outdoor concert in upstate New York called Woodstock. On August 15,16, and 17 of 1969, an incredible lineup of over thirty folk and rock groups ranging from Ravi Shankar to Arlo Guthrie, The Grateful Dead to Joe Cocker, jefferson Airplane, The Who, Janis Joplin, Santana, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix entertained a huge crowd.
With 500,000 in attendance, Woodstock took place in the small (population 4500) Catskills town of Bethel, about 100 miles north of Manhattan. The movie Taking Woodstock is based on the book by the same name written by Bethel motel owner Elliot Teichberg.
I missed the concert, even though we lived in New York at the time, because I was in elementary school and, well, my parents were definitely not heading to the Catskills for a weekend of free love, drugs, and hippies. Nonetheless, I've always been interested in Woodstock and how it all came to be.
Director Ang Lee does a good enough job with the historical retelling of Elliot's (Demetri Martin) story of Woodstock, but fails to create engaging characters, instead leaving us with a motley collection of one-dimensional caricatures, like Billy (Emile Hirsch) the scroungy misunderstood Vietnam war vet and Elliot's stereotypically Jewish parents, the angry, critical and secretive Sonia (Imelda Staunton) and the long-suffering Jake (Henry Goodman).
If you were at Woodstock or even love the music, you'll be disappointed how little of the concert shows up in the film too: It's exactly mirrored by the presence of the momentous Apollo 11 landing in the film, which we see on TV, all but the most pivotal moment of Armstrong taking that one giant leap for mankind.
For a film based on an amazing, world-changing concert that represents the zenith of the 60's free love hippie culture, Lee has crafted the worst possible insult: a movie that just isn't particularly funny, insightful or engaging.