I look back to that LA Times review that got me started writing this post and sent me over to YouTube to find "Jokes With Guitar":
The soft center of the film and its unlikely protagonist is Elliot, a 34-year-old New York City interior designer still wearing polyester and polos played by Demetri Martin, probably best known for his very funny observational stand-up (check out "Jokes With Guitar" on YouTube.So, come on, walk beside me, down to YouTube — set your soul free, life is for learning, etc. etc.:
To put a fine point on it, Elliot's a classic '60s head case and theoretically a perfect prism through which to view the Woodstock phenomenon. That the character is based on Elliot Tiber and his book, "Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life," who more by chance than initiative snagged the festival at the last minute after nearby Wallkill, N.Y., turned the concert promoters down, gives the film an organic feel.Oh, it's "Taking Woodstock." "Taking"? Why "taking"? Is that "taking" in the sense of military or sexual conquest or is this "taking," meaning ingestion, like taking LSD, and Elliot takes the drug we call "Woodstock" and gets we-are-stardust-we-are-golden high. Well, Ang Lee carried over the title Tiber put on his book.
I'm not going to reject the movie because I don't like the title. My point is simply that I couldn't remember the title, and if I can't remember the title, then I think my soul — which, I'll have you know, is already set free — resists seeing this recreation of Woodstock.
Since I could watch the great documentary "Woodstock" and see film of the actual people and bands of Woodstock, do I really want to endure the spectacle of young actors of today pretending to be those people? Possible answers to that question:
1. Yes, it would be interesting if only to look for the slippage between the actual event and how it is now imagined, by people who always knew Woodstock as a myth from the past.
2. Yes, because most of the story is Elliot's personal adventure, and it merges with the big historical event in ways that are specific to his story and, of course, not depicted in the documentary footage.
3. No, because I cringe even at the thought of today's actor kids pretending to be enthralled by what it was annoying enough to see the kids tormented by the awful things that happened in 1969 going all mushy about.
4. No, because the movie isn't getting that good of reviews, I've been avoiding Ang Lee movies since "The Ice Storm" in 1997 (which was also about a young man trying to find himself), and I still haven't seen "Inglourious Basterds."