I don’t know what happened to the world. Where was the love for Ang Lee’s TAKING WOODSTOCK? This movie was brilliant, touching and really spoke to how good (ideally) people can be. The movie stars Demetri Martin as Elliot Tiber; a real life person, who wrote the book and lived the story portrayed in the movie. He’s an artist, who has given up his place in New York City to move to the Catskill Mountains to run his parent’s motel in the small town of Bethel, New York.
Elliot who has been newly elected head of the City Council learns one day that the Woodstock festival has been kicked out of their original venue; and so to help pay off his parent’s mortgage, he makes a phone call. The people who are running the festival show up via limousine and even by helicopter, to check out the landscape and to make sure that Elliot has the proper permits (which he gives himself). And with a little finessing with local dairy farmer, Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), the festival is on. The town gets into a tizzy, because they don’t want all those dirty hippies showing up “stealing and raping cows”, and yet everyone winds up making a nice profit from the multitudes of people that show up.
Along the way, Elliot meets lots of people – populated in the movie by various cameo roles, both by recognizable actors (Liev Schrieber) and probably not so much (Paul Dano). He learns to free himself, and to not be afraid of hiding who he really is. But, mostly he learns that there’s a life to be lived, and so he should. His parents (played magnificently by Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman), are stodgy old curmudgeon’s who as Jews, have lived through WWII; and have also had to deal with the persecution of being Jewish in their small town.
The movie focusses on the bureaucracy and the effort put in to make this event happen, and really shines a light on what had originally been my thought that just a bunch of hippies showed up one day to put on a concert and get stoned. And what starts out as a business enterprise – trying to sell tickets and set up venues – eventually just turns into a sea of people; and you just can’t stop the love, man.
It might just be the hippy in me, but I absolutely loved this movie and might even consider it to be my favorite by Ang Lee. I feel like I might need to revisit THE ICE STORM and CROUCHING TIGER, again; and actually see SENSE & SENSIBILITY, to make a final judgement. But, I have a feeling it might hold up. The movie just oozes with positivity and love and the joy of seeing so many people – amazingly enough, although it looks like there’s a lot of actual footage from Woodstock thrown into the movie, it’s all filmed specifically for this movie – together, and it not turning into a giant mess and full of people ruining the experience. Although, there are some townspeople, that do try; but they’re just too small for the amount of people coming for the show. There’s even a great moment of a police officer who says he came up to the Governor-sanctioned “disaster area”, to thump a few hippies on the head. But, says maybe he’s just getting a contact high but he’s been affected. Then he puts on his motorcycle helmet that has a flower in the band.
And I guess, maybe that’s where the movie goes wrong. It’s too positive and we’ve gone from the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Cyncism and Contrarianism. A movie that’s about peace and love (and yes, understanding; what’s wrong with that?), just has no place. Not when we can go to the movies and watch billions of people be killed by the end of the world. Maybe everyone does need to get high a little more often (amazingly enough, this is coming from someone who in-fact does not do drugs – though I have experimented), lose their perspective a little bit.
The quote the title of this post comes from is when Elliot is talking to a girl with the Woodstock group, and he talks about how his troubles really aren’t anything to what’s going on with the festival. Y’know, perspective. And the girl says that “maybe his family problems are the most important thing in the universe.” Perspective shuts out the universe, it keeps the love out. Maybe it’s too new-agey and stupid for most people; but I think there’s some truth to it.
This movie shows the beauty of the world, and of humanity; and really deserves to be appreciated more than it has.