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Review: 'Taking Woodstock'

Ang Lee's dramatization portrays Woodstock as a shining moment without any larger look at what was roiling the country.

Mamie Gummer(l.) Jonathan Groff (c.) and Demetri Martin are shown in a scene from, "Taking Woodstock."

Ken Regan/ Focus Features/ AP

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It was inevitable that a dramatic feature about Woodstock would debut on the fabled festival's 40th anniversary but, coupled with all the other tributes and DVD packages and interviews and look-backs and think pieces, I'm tempted to call for a moratorium on the whole shebang. I am a proud, if somewhat jaded, member of that tie-dyed generation but there's only so much hippie nostalgia I can endure.

The drama in question, Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock," is a bit like the festival itself – a happy mess. It was scripted by James Schamus and based on an eponymous memoir by Elliot Tiber subtitled "A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life." Elliot had been working as an interior designer in Greenwich Village, N.Y., but moved to the Catskills to bail out his parents' ramshackle motel. When a permit for what was originally billed as a small-scale neighboring music and arts festival is rescinded, Elliot helps strike a deal to keep the show alive at a 600-acre dairy farm down the road. (The location was actually Bethel, not Woodstock, but Woodstock sounds better.) The rest is history and herstory.


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