By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
(Focus) is a fact-based slice of psychedelic history that sees Elliot Teichberg
(comedian Demetri Martin), the young manager of a failing motel in New York's Catskills,
inadvertently becoming a crucial player in the staging of the iconic 1969 music
Mamie Gummer, Jonathan Groff and Demetri Martin star in a scene from the movie "Taking Woodstock."
Though it traces its protagonist's growth
toward a healthier relationship with his immigrant parents—ferociously
pessimistic mother Sonia (Imelda Staunton) and downtrodden father Jake (Henry
Goodman)—director Ang Lee's gently rambling comedy portrays Elliot's public
avowal of his homosexuality as another positive step toward emotional maturity.
As adapted from Elliot Tiber's 2007
memoir, Taking Woodstock: A True Story of
a Riot, a Concert and a Life (Tiber's name at birth was Teichberg), James
Schamus' script opens with Elliot forsaking his life as a New York City
decorator to return upstate where Sonia and Jake are on the verge of losing
their fleabag hostelry, the El Monaco, to foreclosure.
Learning that Michael Lang (Jonathan
Groff), the moving spirit behind the planned rock concert, has had his permit
pulled by a neighboring town, Elliot—who heads the Chamber of Commerce of tiny
Bethel, N.Y., where the El Monaco is located—offers the impresario the
necessary permission to hold his event there.
He also introduces Michael to local dairy
farmer Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), whose land proves an ideal site for the
Hippie culture is embodied by the
Earthlight players, tenants of a barn on the Teichbergs' land, who repeatedly
indulge an avant-garde fondness for disrobing in public, and by an unnamed
couple (Paul Dano and Kelli Garner) Elliot encounters once the festival gets
under way who invite him into their VW van to drop acid and canoodle, though
how far the latter activity goes is left uncertain.
Ex-Marine and current transvestite Vilma
(Liev Schreiber)—who volunteers to provide security after the Mob tries to sell
the Teichbergs' protection—is another "free spirit" quite at home with
the apparent paradoxes in his resume. Partly under Vilma's inspiration, Elliot
flirts with, publicly kisses and later wakes up in bed beside a construction
worker who has caught his fancy.
The film contains a benign view of
homosexual acts, group sex and transvestism, nonsexual full frontal nudity,
drug use, a half-dozen uses of profanity, and frequent rough and some crude
language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is
O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is
R—restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
- - -
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office
for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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