A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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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.
Talk to your kids 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’t seem to appreciate it? Or, if she does, why can’t she let him know?What makes him persist?
- In theaters: August 28, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: December 15, 2009
- Cast: Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber
- Director: Ang Lee
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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