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.