Taking Woodstock: A ’60s Trip We Don’t Need to Take

"If you remember Woodstock, you probably weren't there," the expression goes. And if you were, can you please stop gassing on about it? Aquarian Nostalgia is the most oppressively sanctimonious and dull stripe of reminiscing, which Ang Lee's facile film does nothing to disprove. To its credit, Taking Woodstock—based on Elliot Tiber's 2007 memoir, and written by Lee's frequent collaborator James Schamus—features no actors pantomiming Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, or Sha-Na-Na. On display instead are inane portrayals of Jews, performance artists, trannies, Vietnam vets, squares, and freaks. The gayness of Elliot (Demetri Martin) becomes Lee's tenuous overarching theme, though his Uranian tendencies must be kept hidden from his Jewish-émigré parents, Jake and Sonia (Henry Goodman and Imelda Staunton), who run a decrepit motel in upstate Bethel. The good son leaves Manhattan to help them, and, after reading that neighboring Wallkill says no to hosting an event for a bunch of longhairs, sets the wheels in motion for the concert to be held in his Catskills hamlet. Beyond Elliot's marginally interesting homo conflict, Taking Woodstock does nothing more than recycle the same late-'60s tropes seen countless times since the Carter administration.

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