A young man wants to stimulate the economy of his tiny community, mostly for the sake of his parents struggling motel, and inadvertently welcomes what would become the original Woodstock festival into his back yard (literally).
Based on the true origins of this music festival that changed the world, we do not see the happenings of the stars onstage like other Woodstock films might. From beginning to the end, we only witness the muddy setup of the campsites and the infamously congested highway leading to the stage.
Demetri Martin plays a young Elliot Tiber, the man who helped bring this festival to his town. Martin is not a seasoned actor and it shows from time to time. The film is constantly looking over his shoulders at the growing madness around him, and because of this, sometimes the film weighs too heavily on said shoulders, a burden Martin is not skilled enough to carry. Though to help him, there is a very talented supporting cast surrounding him, including Eugene Levy, Jefferey Dean Morgan and Liev Schreiber in a role that takes back the ironic humour of a very large man in drag from Tyler Perry.
Ang Lee, as the director, is wonderfully meticulous when it comes to fine and interesting details amongst the many extras and happenings in the background. In a Woodstock film, there should be a hundred interesting things to see in any frame, and Lee delivers better than I have ever seen a director do on this subject. One hindrance this causes though is there are so many things buzzing around that featured supporting characters, such as Martin’s love interest or some of the townsfolk, disappear into the tumult and no longer seem important. Heck, even a band of actors need to get nude on more than one occasion just so we are reminded of their existence. This is actually quite suiting for the atmosphere of the last half of the film as it helps us as the viewer become immersed in the ever flowing, barely controlled grooviness of Woodstock. What I meant by hindrance, is that it leaves Martin all the more responsible for carrying the story (his story) for he is the lone consistency throughout.
To continue with Lee, once again we see him using the multiple frames within the frame tactic (for a quick example, think of his version of the Hulk). In some places this works, so that we get a stronger glimpse of all the finer details he injected into the surroundings, but other points it is just needless style that distracts us from seeing what our main character(s) are trying to accomplish. Lee might have been the best director to deliver this story, as it is always such a challenge to make a Woodstock film, forit is so huge that you can only talk about chunks at a time (I mean, look at how much has been done about Hendrix’s performance alone). All we can ever ask of such films is to have them take us there, for however long they can, and Lee helped recreate the look and vibe of the festival perfectly.
Widescreen 1.85. The picture seamlessly dance between a clear modern picture and a mock-vintage look. Some of the shots are so convincing that I started to wonder if they were using real stock footage, and could not tell what might have been re-created (perhaps all of it?). A quality DVD delivery of a director’s strong vision.
Dolby Digital 5.1 availabe in English, French and Spanish (Subtitles available in those same three languages too). The surround is at its best when making music dance around the speakers, really placing us into the moments. The dialogue is very clear and the few effects are blended nicely into the music. A job well done.
Deleted Scenes: Only three, and we can see how they were cut for the sake of packing. Not bad scenes but their points can be grasped at other points in the film.
Peace, Love and Cinema: A Behind-The-Scenes Documentary. Long enough to be more than a fluff piece, we get a nice, wide spectrum of opinions and interviews.
Commentary by Ang Lee and Writer James Shamus: A nice, light commentary track that offers to usual friendly banter and complimentary comments for the film.
I had trouble caring about this story for the first part, and it took the immensity of Woodstock to bring me into it. Be it wholly true or not, this is a, for the most part, well told story within a bigger story in history.