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Taking Woodstock - Film Review

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Published March 26th 2013
Peace and love and hash brownies
Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) returns home in the summer of 1969 to help his ailing parents (Henry Goodman and an almost unrecognisably staunch Imelda Staunton) save the El Monaco Resort the family's run-down motel in the Catskills, New York. After hearing that "some hippie thing" will be cancelled unless they find a new venue for the concert, Eliot strikes up a deal with festival organiser Michael Lang (an unnervingly Willy Wonka-esque Jonathon Groff) that sees neighbouring farmland become the venue and the El Monaco the accommodation. Half a million hippies descend and the motel is inundated with a few more guests than expected.

Ang Lee offers a behind the scenes look at the people who make the festival. Personal journeys and transformations become a focus - from Eliot's coming out and psychedelic acid trip, to his father's radical transformation from a tired old man into a youthful dude who can take on the world. Even Eliot's overbearing mother gets there eventually with a little help from some hash brownies.

Taking Woodstock
Theatrical poster for Taking Woodstock Copyright 2009 by Focus Features
A menagerie of quirky characters crop up throughout the film from Emile Hirsch as a Vietnam Veteran suffering from PTSD, to Liev Schreiber as a cross-dressing security guard.

There's nothing too challenging or despondent about Taking Woodstock. The dreamy sun-bleached light and meandering pace gel nicely with the peaceful relaxed characters and sloth of a sweltering heatwave. Lee provides just the right level of offbeat humour to generate a cheerful chuckle.

But be warned: if you want a re-enacting of the festival itself, then this is not the film for you. Go watch Michael Wadleigh's 1970 documentary instead. But if you want a light-hearted film to warm your heart, then get your hands on a copy of Taking Woodstock.

Peace out.
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Where: DVD / Blu ray
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