Beware. This is not a great movie. It is also not a movie to learn more about the history of the Summer of Love. The facts on that are disputed and probably largely unknowable. It was 40 years ago. The event came to be bigger than the sum of it’s parts. Michael Lang and Elliot have good reason not to agree on who did what and why. So lay that aside when viewing the film. There is more to it than that.
The movie reminds me alot of the collection of short stories by Ellen Litman, ‘The Last Chicken in America’. Elliot is the child of Russian immigrants who see him as needing to fix their problems. They don’t listen to him, they boss him around, and even though he is well into adulthood in terms of age, he has the worst of both worlds with his parents. They don’t listen to him, he is not an equal decision-maker with them, and they take it for granted that he will come to their aid when needed. And he fulfills that role to the best of his ability. They have a ramshackle 1930’s style motel in the Catskills that is going to rack and ruin, not much used, and in constant danger of being foreclosed on by the bank. It is in the guise of trying to wring as much money out of everything that Elliot gets involved in the whole music festival scene. So whether this version of events related to Woodstock is true or not, the depiction of the economy in upstate New York and the pressures on first generation Americans are worth the time spent watching the movie. The music festival itself is depicted in a way that is pretty unobjectionable, with the obligatory hallucinatory scene being above average in accuracy. It is by no means Ang Lee’s best effort, but he is a filmmaker worthy of attention.