Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Box Office Review - Taking Woodstock

The Woodstock festival has been held in an angelic place in music fans hearts for the past forty years. Unfourtunately Taking Woodstock is unable to capture that magic and ends up being dull and rife with clichés. It should be known up front that I could care less about Woodstock, but I had another reason to look forward to the film.

That reason is main star Demetri Martin. Ever since his work on The Daily Show I have been following everything that he has done. His stand-up album These Are Jokes and his DVD Person are some of my favourite stand-up routines. His sketch show Important Things with Demetri Martin is one of my favourite sketch shows ever. So I when I heard he would be the main star in a film I was very excited. I wish I could say good things about his performance, but I can’t. He is one note for the entire movie which is bizarre because he is in some rather odd situations. Whether taking acid, talking to Liev Schrieber who is in drag or having a heartfelt conversation with his father his emotions never change. As we spend the entire film with Martin’s character and his lack of emotion, none of the concert or events leading up to it seem that amazing. As much as his character was uninteresting, I absolutely hated the character of his mother played by Imelda Staunton. In recent memory I cannot remember a more retched character that I have disliked this much. Whether or not that is the way she was suppose to be perceived could be up for debate, but in my opinion she is a terrible character who is borderline psychotic. The selfish things that she did drove me crazy. I didn’t feel that she redeemed herself at any point in the movie and though that isn’t always necessary in a film, here it was.

While Martin’s and Staunton’s characters may seem out of place in the Woodstock festival, there were many characters that were so stereotypical to that time period that the movie was hard to take seriously. For example, Emile Hirsch plays a recently returned soldier from Vietnam who is having a hard time adjusting to normal life. His character is just like every other Vietnam vet character that you have seen in other films, right down to the facial hair. It is as if director Ang Lee was more content at showing the 60s as ingrained in public conscience rather than showing any factual characters. There were probably people like Hirsch’s character during Woodstock, but as we have seen this character time and time again it just didn’t work. The film also goes beyond stereotypical characters right down to specific scenes. What do most people think of when they think of the 60s? Psychedelic drug trips and I was hoping this film would resist in showing such a scene, but it didn’t. Demetri Martin’s character takes acid with a couple of strangers and ends up looking out over the Woodstock crowd as it appears to be moving up and down like the ocean. This had nothing to do with the story other than that it is what people think of when thinking 60s.

Taking Woodstock is unable to show a portrait of the 60s that is any different than what we have seen before. It tries to capture a sense of the time and maybe it did that, I wasn't there. I do know that when a movie comes off as a pile of clichés it is not interesting for the viewer.

A Banana Peel

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