Taking Woodstock

Rated 4.0

Taking Woodstock—it bears repeating—isn’t really about the legendary music festival in 1969. The pop-cultural aura of “Woodstock nation” and the event itself hover on the edges of everything that happens in Ang Lee’s new movie, but the action in the foreground focuses mainly on the gently comic dramas that unfold in the lives of some of the locals most involved in bringing that huge runaway extravaganza into the Catskills and rural New York state in the first place. In the process, the movie itself becomes a festive sort of social comedy—part panoramic period piece, part sidelong coming-of-age story, part nonchalant paean to pansexual liberation. Lee and screenwriter James Schamus have based their story on Elliot Tiber’s memoir, Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life. Young comedian Demetri Martin plays Elliot and acquits himself amiably and effectively as the central but by no means dominant figure in the film’s frisky little time-capsule circus of emblematic character types. Tinseltown. Rated R