Sunday, August 30, 2009



The Woodstock Music and Art Fair (better known simply as Woodstock) was a music festival held from August 15 – 18, 1969 near the small hamlet of White Lake, about 40 miles southwest from the town of Woodstock, New York.

Thirty-two acts including Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Santana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, Blood Sweat and Tears, Crosbie Stills and Nash and Jimi Hendrix performed over the course of the four days.

Imelda Staunton: Sonia, owner/operator of a motel in the Catskills Mountains
Demetri Martin: her son Elliot, president of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce
Henry Goodman: Sonia’s husband Jake Teichberg
Jonathan Groff: Michael Lang, an associate with Woodstock Ventures
Eugene Levy: dairy farmer Max Yasgur
Dan Fogler: Devon, leader of a theater troupe
Emile Hirsch: Billy, a Vietnam vet
Liev Schreiber: Vilma an ex-Marine turned bodyguard

Woodstock is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most pivotal moments in popular music. So the very mention of the word Woodstock brings to mind music. But the film fails miserably in this regard.

From the end credits I could pick out only 2 songs out of hundreds that were performed during the festival. I’m not suggesting the producers had to have re-enactments of the festival itself but the music could have been heard on a radio playing in the background or just included as part of the musical score. Failing to do so is a great disappointment. It’s like going to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and there is no Snow White.

However the film does offer something of the chaotic behind-the-scenes developments that resulted in this historical event. Although not an entirely accurate reflection of reality we get a good sense of what things were like back then: the free-love movement, protests (war, bras) and the use of drugs by most everyone.

Some of the acting stands above the rest, in particular both of Elliot’s parents and Vilma. There are frequent funny moments, the costuming and sets are top notch. But that is not enough to compensate for leaving out a huge part of what has become one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll according to the magazine Rolling Stone.

for graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language.

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