30 August 2009

At the movies: Taking Woodstock.

Director Ang Lee likes to tell stories about people making their way out of repressive lives and finding their own paths to liberation, and Taking Woodstock fits that theme perfectly. It’s a subtle, small film that nonetheless makes late-60s hippie ideology appealing, specifically because of how it shows the impact of those ideas on a lonely life.

In 1969, Elliot Tiber (The Daily Show’s Demetri Martin) is trying to keep himself afloat while helping keep his parent’s upstate New York hotel in business. When a fledgling rock ‘n roll festival finds themselves in need of a place to take over for a few weeks, Elliot decides to open up his small town to the Woodstock nation (as well as his own compartmentalized self to the possibility of genuine smalltown eroticism- "you smell good,like an apple fritter" possibly being the best pick-up line the cinema has given us so far this year), making history in the process.

It’s a strange world we live in right now, and despite a dismissive debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Taking Woodstock is the kind of film that feels like it has a place in the modern multiplex. It takes the abstraction of liberation that the peace and love moment offered up, then shows us that working on a person-by-person basis, with the end result of making the viewer feel a little bit better about humanity when the film ends. It’s a sweet trifle of a film with great performances from Martin and Liev Schreiber (as cross-dressing former marine Vilma), and its genial sense of warm-hearted community will win you over completely.

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