First Night: Taking Woodstock

3.00

All the fun of the festival – courtesy of Ang Lee

Woodstock 1969 lives on as the epitome of cool. Images of free love, Jimi Hendrix's guitar and Joan Baez, The Who, Janis Joplin et al were etched into posterity by Michael Wadleigh's classic 1970 documentary. Forty years down the line, Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee has decided to celebrate the geeks that made the concert possible. It's the most fun film in competition at Cannes so far.

It's hard to imagine a more unlikely hero than Elliot Tiber, who wrote the book Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life, which has been amusingly adapted by the screenwriter James Schamus.

Demetri Martin, replete with a hooked nose and gaunt features, plays Elliot, one of life's unhappy nice guys. He could have walked off the set of American Graffiti. He desperately needs to escape his adolescence and break ties with his overbearing parents, especially his mother (Imelda Staunton). They run a failing motel in White Plains, Woodstock. Ang Lee embraces the clichés, so it's violet dresses for the girls, and long hair and amusing facial hair for the boys – when they're actually wearing clothes, that is.

As Elliot tries to come up with ideas to save the motel and re-invigorate the community, we meet an array of kooky characters: his proud father Jake (Henry Goodman), the mad experimental theatre group leader Devon (Dan Folger), the chocolate milk-making neighbour Max (Eugene Levy) and the best friend, Billy (Emile Hirsch), a Vietnam veteran who looks like he's just out of his nappy. Lee shows that there were freaks in this town way before the hippies arrived. Elliot's desperation sees him call the producer Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) when he hears the neighbouring town of Walkill won't licence the concert. And the rest, as they say ...

We're soon into a culture clash comedy as the townsfolk adapt to more than a million hippies, only outdone by the arrival of Liev Schreiber as a cross-dressing ex-marine. Alas, the fun does not last. Once the concert starts and Elliot has his inevitable LSD trip and introduction to free love, the film drops the comedy for a needless coming-of-age denouement in which Elliot breaks from his parents. It would have been better had the movie ended when the concert began.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen