Taking Woodstock

  • Review Date: August 20, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Dramedy revisits famous festival, complete with drugs, sex.
  • Review Date: August 20, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 120 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie's main messages are that you can't fight change -- but that change isn't necessarily bad -- and that you should follow your bliss (peace reigns, man!). Family is also shown as being important. The close-minded try to fend off a societal shift by attempting to cancel the festival, but a determined generation prevails.

Positive role models

A son rallies around his parents and their town, even though it meansdelaying his own happiness. He's resourceful and hardworking, but alsohas lots of empathy for others. His mother doesn’t seem to have empathy for him, but she appears to come around somewhat, and he and his father forge a bond in the run up to (and during) the festival. One character hoards money to the point where she takes advantage of arelative’s generosity. She wakes up on the floor clutching herpiles of cash and will do almost anything to make an extra buck.


One character flashes a gun attached to his hip. A man swings a bat at -- and later chases -- mobsters trying to shake him down. Some yelling between family members. A group defaces a property that belongs to a Jewish family, painting a swastika on it.


A fair bit of nudity during the festival (bare breasts and behinds; genitalia can be seen from afar). Heterosexual and same-sex couples make out in public, and there’s a scene that hints at a threesome, though it’s not made clear what exactly happens. One male character is a cross-dresser.


Frequent use of strong language includes "f--k" (many times), "s--t," "damn," "prick," "my God," and more.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The movie acurately represents the time and place: There was plenty of drug use at the time (and especially at the festival), and some of it's shown here. Characters smoke pot, eat hash brownies, and trip on acid. There's also some drinking, sometimes to excess, in party situations.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this R-rated Ang Lee dramedy about the backstory behind the famous Woodstock festival is quite accurate in depicting the time period and the event itself -- in other words, there's plenty of drug use (pot, acid, etc.), nudity, and more. Since it stars comedian Demetri Martin, expect teens to be interested. But the topic and tone are definitely more geared toward adults.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) is the heir apparent to his parents’ dilapidated motel in White Lake, New York. Bank reps are knocking at the door, ready to foreclose. So when he gets wind that the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival has lost its venue in nearby Wallkill -- and that a move to their area could bring in some much-needed tourism dollars -- Elliot makes it happen (handily enough, he has an approved permit for a music festival he was supposed to host at the ready). But once the gears are in motion, he realizes the event is much bigger and more complicated than he anticipated ... and his neighbors disapprove, to say the least.

Is it any good?


TAKING WOODSTOCK starts quietly, maybe even sleepily -- a little like White Lake before the hippies invaded. Based on the real-life Elliot Tiber’s memoirs, the movie gains traction once the deal is struck between Elliot and his parents and Woodstock’s organizers. Almost immediately, the film gains ground, and as Elliot blossoms, it does, too. Martin, a Comedy Central regular, quickly proves that he has chops beyond comedy -- he shifts from humor to pathos easily here, sometimes juggling both at once. In fact, the entire ensemble is excellent; Imelda Staunton manages to be sympathetic as a distinctly unsympathetic character, and, as a cross-dressing ex-Marine, Liev Schreiber completely sheds his hunkiness, tapping into a surprising femininity.

The film isn’t director Ang Lee’s best work, and it doesn’t quite capture the late 1960s like his Ice Storm did the early/mid 1970s. Nevertheless, Taking Woodstock is worth watching, if only for the way Lee personalizes a moment so culturally familiar and deeply historic that it’s become monumental. There’s not much drama, despite local protests. The tension is more internal, as Elliot awakens from his dutiful slumber to discover there’s a movement afoot that could liberate him -- not just musically, but emotionally and sexually.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the era depicted in the movie. What was it about Woodstock thatattracted the younger generation? Was the eventitself a tipping point for change, or was it emblematic of changealready under way?

  • Teens: Do you think the movie is an accurate presentation of what it was like to be at Woodstock? What do you think would happen at a similar event today, especially if drug use and sex were as rampant?

  • Why does Elliot help his parents even though his mother doesn’tseem to appreciate it? Or, if she does, why can’t she let him know?What makes him persist?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 28, 2009
DVD release date:December 15, 2009
Cast:Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber
Director:Ang Lee
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language

This review of Taking Woodstock was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bywrhusc May 3, 2015

Worst Woodstock Movie Ever!

THIS MOVIE IS TERRIBLE. Okay, I worn born in 1970, so Woodstock was something people talked about a lot, but I never could never appreciate. This movie uses Woodstock as the background, to tell the personal and semi-true story of one person's perspective. The first 30 minutes were an okay starting point, then the movie spirals downhill to the point of shear disappointment. This movie is so bad, It kept me away from movie theaters for months. I enjoy seeing art-house movies, but this may be the worst movie I have ever seen. If you want to learn about Woodstock, watch anything on PBS. If you are addicted to watching movies, this just may be the cure.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 9, 11, and 15 year old Written byfathertime September 8, 2009

Not much happens but it's fun nonetheless

You know, it was a welcome treat to see a film about this seminal event that isn't about the event. The Jewish mother from hell, the "good" son and the gentle dad were all unlikely heroes at a time when peace was a lifestyle and people thought music could save the world. Not bad messages. Having said that you realize why everyone hates hippies. The only reason why this is rated R is because of the frontal nudity. I'd let my teen see it with the caveat that casual drug use isn't fun and games. There are some real casualties from that time in history. Some of them sleep in the park not far from our house.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byabitligit September 2, 2009

Negative 5 stars

My husband and I had a rare date night last night and chose to spend it with dinner and a movie "Taking Woodstock". While the dinner was great, the movie was most unpalatable. Unless you're are interested in seeing a movie about a concert... that never shows the concert... or a movie about a homosexual nerdy Jewish guy who walks around basically the whole time making completely random conversation with people and a few less than par kissing scenes... or a movie where a Vietnam Veteran suffering from obvious post-traumatic stress syndrome suddens flashes back to reality just in time to slide down a muddy hill... (total anti-climax).. Then I don't recommend you seeing this film. Negative 5 stars in my opionion.


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