Fighting with the Sky

Taking Woodstock [Movie Monday]

Posted on: August 31, 2009

Taking_woodstockTaking Woodstock is definitely an interesting movie.  It is based on the true story of a young man, Elliot (Demetri Martin), who’s parents own a small, run-down motel in upstate New York.  Elliot offered his parents motel to the people planning Woodstock in 1969 as a place to set up headquarters close to the area that the festival was to take place.  I was no where near being alive during this time period.  And all  I know about Woodstock is from what my parents have talked about (they weren’t there, but they remember when it happened, especially my dad) in terms of some of the performers and lots of drugs and nudity.

Being that I don’t know a whole lot about the time period and Woodstock, I think that the movie did a good job at placing the viewer in the historical time period.  There is a lot of attention given to the feelings of the townspeople (and society in general) about “those damned hippies” as well as the political atmosphere surrounding the Vietnam War.  One of the main characters is Billy (played by Emile Hirsch) who is a Vietnam War veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress and horrifying, violenct flashbacks.  No one really knows how to deal with him and he spends most of his time getting high.  And there are some really sweet moments between Billy and Elliot when Billy starts to remember both who he was before the war and who he was during the war.

A lot of the humor of the movie (of which there is a lot) comes from the stereotypical images of hippies.  I can’t say for sure if this is what it was like at Woodstock or during this time period, but the hippies in Taking Woodstock provided a lot of humor.  This humor mainly came from the reactions of the townspeople to hippies…that they were going to come to the town high on drugs and steal everything, instead of, you know, actually coming to experience the music and the festival in a peaceful manner.

A good amount of the humor also came from Elliot’s parents.  Both of his parents were very hardworking.  I was a little unnerved that his parents were represented as stereotypical Jews who hoarded money and brought up the Holocaust all the time.  But the movie also showed how their family was persecuted in some instances in this small community in upstate New York.  A lot of the humor that Elliot’s parents provided had to do with them chasing people around for either being nude, harassing them or their guests, etc.

There were a couple of things that I wish they would have paid more attention to.  First was the character Vilma.  Vilma is a transwoman who is a Korean War veteran.  Vilma did play a prominent role in the second half of the movie.  She was hired for security around the motel.  At one point, Elliot asks Vilma: “does my dad know what you are?”  In response to this, Vilma says “I know what I am, that’s all that matters” (or something of the like, I can’t remember exactly).  I really would have liked this to have been explored further, but I guess the movie was long enough already.

The other think that I wish they would have paid more attention to was Elliot’s relationship with the construction worker (sorry, I can’t remember his name right now).  We didn’t know until halfway through the movie that Elliot was gay (even though you could kind of tell by the way that he was interacting with this guy) until these two kissed on the dance floor and then there is a scene where they wake up in bed together.  I feel as if because we didn’t know he was gay until this point, he was just coming to discover his sexuality.  But then again, his sexuality is not really central to the story of the movie.  I just wish there would have been more attention paid to this relationship because the movie is also kind of about Elliot discovering himself in the process of planning Woodstock.

This was definitely a unique movie.  It was not only funny but did a great job at showing some integral part of the time period such as the “hippie movement” and the Vietnam War.


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