Taking Woodstock (15)

Ang Lee (110 mins), starring Demetri Martin, Dan Fogler, Imelda Staunton, Emile Hirsch
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The Independent Culture

After the Sturm und Drang of Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution, Ang Lee takes a relaxed stroll through the summer of 1969 and the counter-cultural jamboree of Woodstock.

Elliot (Demetri Martin) is the diffident, dutiful son who returns to his Catskills home to save his parents' failing motel from bankruptcy. But then there are bigger fish to fry – on hearing of an aborted music festival, Elliot calls the producers and offers to help stage it at a neighbours' farm.

Lee wants to combine a landmark moment with a coming-of-age story, but his style here is so loose and rambling it's impossible to sense the excitement of the former and the particularity of the latter: the spectacle of 100,000 hippies getting wasted and sliding through mud isn't as interesting as he thinks, while Elliot's peculiar passivity in the face of his appalling mother (Imelda Staunton) deprives the drama of oxygen. Even more surprising is how little attention the film pays to the music, which was, after all, the main event. A huge disappointment.