Leaving Woodstock

When imagining Woodstock, hippies, music and free love are the first features that come to mind. Yet the main character of the Ang Lee-directed film “Taking Woodstock” is a shy, subtle man who comes from a very strict, neurotic Jewish family.Protagonist Elliot Tischberg, the son of motel owners, is home for the summer working for his parents. Conveniently, he’s also the president of the local chamber of commerce and he has received a music festival permit for a neighbor’s farm — thus, the seeds of Woodstock were planted.Disappointingly, the film is about how Woodstock took place rather than the actual music festival. It depicts the legal procedures in getting the Woodstock festival to happen, all of the people he meets and the development of the main character. There are no scenes showing musicians play. Instead, hippies dancing and playing in the mud is the extent of the three-day festival of peace and music. Otherwise, the camera is on Elliot and his life.Despite this, the acting is on point. Comedian Demetri Martin, who plays Elliot, perfectly displays a timid, responsible guy from 1969 who still can’t stand up to his parents.The hippie characters are a tad over-the-top. The word “beautiful” slips out of their mouths too many times and they are almost too chill and loving.Jonathan Groff over-exaggerates his character, Michael Lang, the far-out hippie who negotiates hosting Woodstock with Elliot. However, this is from the perspective of a 21st-century teenager. It’s quite possible that their acting is right on the money — their hyperbolic movements and words could be legitimate.From the hairstyles to the furniture, the late ‘60s were more than apparent in the film’s set and props. The cars, the interior of the local diner and the glasses that Elliot’s old-fashioned mother wears all scream 1969. There is nothing anachronistic about this film.The cinematography is so well done that it is on the verge of deceiving. In many of the scenes, it is difficult to decipher whether what is on the screen is real footage from the actual Woodstock or not. It turns out that no real footage is used in the movie, yet the camera work is incredible. One unique method used is split-screen filming, in which the same scene is shown from different angles. This helps display the chaos of Woodstock and it also develops the theme of different perspectives. These different perspectives, which Elliot finds through his experiences, allow him to become a changed, confident man.Rather than being a documentary of Woodstock itself, this movie delves into the story of a man finding himself through Woodstock. Instead of re-living an era, the film lives an era through the eyes of one person.