Dimitri Martin, Live Schreiber, Taking Woodstock

Ken Regan/Focus Features

Far out? Far from it. Based on the memoirs of Elliot Tiber, this comedy stars The Daily Show's Demetri Martin as Elliot, who inadvertently helps organize the landmark hippie concert. Though intermittently amusing and exhilarating, Taking Woodstock can't quite pull together its threads into one totally trippy tapestry.

The Bigger Picture: After Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution, director Ang Lee works outside the angsty realm for a change, but he's still expanding his oeuvre of movies about deeply repressed men. Unfortunately, this time out, his protagonist is the least interesting character onscreen.

It's the summer of '69, and Elliot (Martin)—a gay interior designer living in Greenwich Village—moves upstate to help save his parents' business, a dumpy motel in the Catskills. Hearing that a neighboring town has pulled its permit for a planned arts and music festival, Elliot calls producer Michael Lang (a striking Jonathan Groff) to suggest his community as an alternative.

Soon the concert staff moves into his motel, and half a million hippies descend upon the nearby dairy farm for "three days of peace and music." Overwhelmed, Elliot gets a little help from his friends, including Vietnam vet Billy (Emile Hirsch) and cross-dressing ex-Marine Vilma (Liev Schreiber), both receiving less screen time than they deserve.

Woodstock milks the cultural/generational clashes for laughs, but without a more driving narrative beneath all the concert planning, the film stumbles finding its groove amid the grooviness. It's also problematic that Elliot remains reactive and too much a blank slate—we get mere hints of his former life in New York and struggles with his sexuality.

Lee evokes a sense of innocence and infectious communal spirit, especially in a terrific sequence following Elliot on the long road packed with concertgoers. But oddly, he keeps us far from the action, with musical performances only on the soundtrack.

Like the skimpy subplot about Elliot's fling with a hottie techie, Woodstock is foreplay and afterglow without enough of the main event.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Watching this Age of Aquarius love-in, you realize such an uncynical, uncorporatized event could never happen today. And that's a real bummer, man.


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