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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Taking Woodstock

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Mamie Gummer, Jonathan Groff and Demetri Martin star in a scene from the movie "Taking Woodstock."
“Taking Woodstock" (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 festival.
 
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 extravaganza.
 
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.
 
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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