Some viewers might come away from this movie disappointed. For me, I got exactly what I expected. A comedy with a pop-culture backdrop that I was interested in. There is enough mystique about Woodstock to feed another generation’s marvelings.
I went to the town of Woodstock once, only to realize it wasn’t Woodstock where the concert took place, but Bethel. Why we’re not calling it the Bethel festival I don’t know. I am sure a lot of others of my generation, who were to young at the time, drive into Woodstock off of I-87 and stop at a diner, just to have been there.
In Taken Woodstock, we learn that the town of Wallkill, NY actually turned down the festival. They didn’t want the traffic and other headaches. Go figure. I wonder what would have happened to the name if Wallkill had been the venue of the festival as originally planned? We’d be calling it the Wallkill Festival now.
Central to the story is a young Jewish man, Elliot Teichberg, an interior designer who moves up from the city to help his parents save their funky and dying motel business. He becomes the hapless president of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce and in that role has the brilliant idea of contacting the New York organizers of the festival that were turned down in Wallkill. Shortly after that, helicopters and limousines from the city converge on his motel with brown paper grocery bags of cash. Soon nothing is the same anymore for a few months in Bethel, as preparations for the festival start.
Comedic action comes from the hilarious cast of characters helping Elliot, including his miserly mother, his aloof but resourceful father, both first generation Russian Jewish immigrants, the transvestite he hires for security and the theater troupe living in his barn that can’t seem to keep their clothes on. One priceless scene is when Elliot’s parents scare away the mafia when they show up and try to get in on the deal.
Once the festival actually starts, Elliot is drawn into the scene like everyone else, and it appears that just like most people there, he doesn’t get to hear much music, but he copes with the basics of survival that would inevitably surface when you herd half a million kids onto one large pasture in the country in torrential rain.
If you expected good music in this movie, you will be disappointed. There is none. You hear the concert going on in the distance occasionally, and that’s it. There isn’t a single concert shot or score. I took this as seeing and experiencing the festival like most people that were there did: far away from the action, too far to get much out of it. The action was in your own head, propagated by LSD, pot and an occasional hash brownie.
I enjoyed the story and the movie for what it’s worth. I kept wondering if this was based on some historical reality. Was there really an Elliot that made it all happen, and a motel that he was trying to save? Or was it a nice frame for a light comedy?
It worked as a nice comedy and I got my money’s worth in entertainment value.