Taking Woodstock

Taking Woodstock

Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Friday 28th August 2009

Box Office USA: $7.4M

Distributed by: Focus Features

Production compaines: Focus Features


Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Fresh: 85 Rotten: 94

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Billy, as Elliot Teichberg, as Jake Teichberg, as British Gentleman, as Sonia Teichberg, as VW Guy, as VW Girl, as Jackson Spiers, as Wilma, Lee Wong as George the Doorman, Anthoula Katsimatides as Esther, Clark Middleton as Frank, as Annie, Sondra James as Margaret, as Dan, as Carol, as Michael Lang, as John Roberts

Taking Woodstock Review

Lively and entertaining, this colourful film recounts the backstage story of the community that inadvertently hosted the 1969 Woodstock music festival. It has some great moments along the way, but as a whole never quite comes together.

Elliot (Martin) leaves New York City to go upstate to help his stubborn parents (Staunton and Goodman) keep their hotel in business. Then he hears that a friend from the city, Michael (Groff), is having trouble getting a permit for his music festival. Elliot happens to already have one in hand, so puts Michael in contact with a local farmer (Levy). And as he helps Michael make the arrangements, he never grasps quite how massive this event is going to be. But then no one did.

Lee is a superb director, and finds something resonant in every scene, drawing out telling details in relationships and situations while letting the actors create characters that continually surprise us, even though the size of the ensemble makes it difficult to get too far from stereotypes. In this sense, Staunton gets the least satisfying role as the narrow-minded shrew, while Martin is stuck with the nice-but-dull guy at the centre of the storm discovering who he really is and where he belongs.

Along the way, other actors get a chance to shine, including Hirsch as a shell-shocked friend just back from Vietnam, Gummer as Michael's free-thinking sidekick, Schreiber as a cross-dressing ex-Marine, and Dano and Garner as hippies who take Elliot on a mind-bending trip in their VW bus. The script is packed with snappy one-liners and witty characters, and it also has a nice structure that builds slowly to the enormous event. Although the pace is somewhat draggy and unfocussed.

Mixing real footage with some genuinely eye-popping recreations, Lee recreates both the groovy vibe and the sense that hundreds of thousands of people are swarming onto these fields. But the mass spectacle and the small story of Elliot's personal journey are at odds with each other, and neither one is very rewarding as a result. We wish we could feel the breakthrough Elliot experiences. But even more, we wish we could watch the performers on the stage.

But then we have Michael Wadleigh's seminal 1970 doc for that.