Taking Woodstock

August 28th, 2009


Taking Woodstock

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Still of Mamie Gummer, Demetri Martin and Jonathan Groff in Taking WoodstockStill of Imelda Staunton, Henry Goodman and Demetri Martin in Taking WoodstockStill of Demetri Martin and Jonathan Groff in Taking WoodstockStill of Eugene Levy and Demetri Martin in Taking WoodstockStill of Paul Dano, Kelli Garner and Demetri Martin in Taking WoodstockStill of Ang Lee and Emile Hirsch in Taking Woodstock

A man working at his parents' motel in the Catskills inadvertently sets in motion the generation-defining concert in the summer of 1969.

Release Year: 2009

Rating: 6.7/10 (13,718 voted)

Critic's Score: 55/100

Director: Ang Lee

Stars: Demetri Martin, Henry Goodman, Edward Hibbert

A man working at his parents' motel in the Catskills inadvertently sets in motion the generation-defining concert in the summer of 1969.

Writers: James Schamus, Elliot Tiber

Henry Goodman - Jake Teichberg
Edward Hibbert - British Gentleman
Imelda Staunton - Sonia Teichberg
Demetri Martin - Elliot Teichberg
Kevin Chamberlin - Jackson Spiers
Lee Wong - George the Doorman (as Takeo Lee Wong)
Anthoula Katsimatides - Esther
Clark Middleton - Frank
Bette Henritze - Annie
Sondra James - Margaret
Jeffrey Dean Morgan - Dan
Christina Kirk - Carol
Gail Martino - Town Clerk
Emile Hirsch - Billy
Adam LeFevre - Dave

Taglines: "A Generation Began In His Backyard."


Official Website: Facebook | Official site |

Release Date: 28 August 2009

Filming Locations: Cherry Plain State Park, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $3,457,760 (USA) (30 August 2009) (1393 Screens)

Gross: $7,443,007 (USA) (27 September 2009)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The guitarist and white percussionist (playing an udu) in the El Monaco Bar Band during the limbo scene are members of the funk/folk band Flearoy.

Factual errors: Billy talks about beating Monticello High School and catching 3 touchdown passes. Monticello High School had no football team at that time nor did it have one for decades prior to the festival. Also, if Billy was from White Lake or Bethel, he would have attended Monticello High School and would not have been playing against them.

[the Chamber of Commerce discussing tourism ideas]
Frank: Well, okay. We got a lot of dairy farms around here, right? And a fair number of bulls. Okay, you've all heard of the running of the bulls in that town in Spain, Pampoona.
Elliot Tiber: Pamplona.
Frank: Well, no one's doing one in the Catskills. Seems to be a big draw over there.
Annie: It would be very amusing to see all those Jews from Levitsky's summer colony, you know, the ones with the black top hats and the curls, running for their lives chased by our local livestock. Wouldn't that be a wonderful sight!

User Review

Ang Lee Nails It!

Rating: 9/10

If you want to have a real sense of the concert and the mass of young people who attended, as a crowd, by all means check out "Woodstock" from 1970. It's all there, the music, the rain and mud, the buzz on the soundtrack replicating the buzz on the sound system at Yasgur's Farm.

But if you want to get a feeling of what Woodstock meant on a personal level, then Ang Lee's your man and you've come to the right place.

How Lee managed to film this recreation without using real footage, I have no idea. That's apparently what he did.

There in a number of shots is the hillside, mud and slop, with the stage below. The few food stands and portable johns at the top of the hill. The winding pathways through the side venues of jewelry, art, a class for this and a political table for that. The long narrow road that still leads off of New York State Route 17B to the Yasgur hillside where it happened.

It rained a lot, but there was sun, this was mid-August and Lee bathes us in the warm glow of peace. Especially true to the event as I remember, the state cop who returns a peace gesture, the locals making sandwiches and offering water from hoses.

Everyone who was there and lucid has a personal remembrance. Mine began on Friday evening with air mattresses not more than 50 feet from the stage and ended with the sacrifice of a blanket abandoned on the mudslide the hill had become by early Sunday morning. In between, I managed to shuttle down state route 55 and into New Jersey the back way, after the music ended Friday night, Saturday morning. Then back from New Jersey up the same road and finally ending about two miles the other side of the concert where the vehicle stayed untouched until it was reclaimed near dawn on Sunday.

By that time, all though I'd only had a few generous puffs of weed, freely offered by those who had some, I was hearing double and it was time to pack it in.

Yes, the brown acid warnings from Chip Monck (name?), the event "voice" echo'd in the acid trip of Demetri Martin, the young son who blunders into inviting the event to White Lake. The colors and details are incredible as seen from his eyes, slowly beginning to shift and then expanding until the hillside is undulating in waves around the lit stage below. A remarkable shot.

Martin won't win any academy awards; Imelda Staunton might for her portrayal of his paranoid Jewish mother who has hidden a fortune while her rundown motel is nearing foreclosure. And an honorable mention should go to Liev Schreiber as the cross-dressing former Marine who provides security at the motel.

Stereotypes? Sure. Few hippies ever were as mentally vacant as the Earthlite players. Did anyone buy Emile Hirsch's early post-Vietnam anguish? Fortunately, it was left on the doorstep of the main film and Hirsch's character later rings true. Just a high school buddy come home.

But see the film for its personal feel, very true to the event. The wish that Dylan would arrive. The helicopter flights to the medical tent. (only a small number of half-a-million needed any treatment at all.) The question, what about the boys in Vietnam. As one girl says on 17B, "Wish they were here." I was back just a little more than a week. Went with an Army buddy I'd never see again. Yet no one gave us grief for our short hair, mandatory to get out of Vietnam.

The music? Well, Arthur Lee and Love are the perfect accompaniment to the acid trip inside the bus (they never played at the festival.) When the early strains of Friday night's music begin to waft over an idyllic lake where dozens of kids bathe nude, it's Arlo Guthrie and I caught myself thinking, damn, it was dark when Guthrie appeared. But that was forty years ago and the memory can't be trusted.

Just the personal feeling. And despite some of the weaknesses in the subplot, Ang Lee did get the feeling right.

For the personal memories, he absolutely nailed it!


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