This evening, I saw Taking Woodstock. After finishing the movie, I began thinking.
The movie, directed by Ang Lee, is good. Not great. It’s entertaining and I enjoyed it.
But that’s not what I’m thinking about.
The film’s pacing is what made me stop (look around…). It was rather meandering. The characters talked about how they only had a short period of time to get Woodstock ready to go, but it didn’t feel like there was a short time. The pacing was leisurely, like taking a walk through the Catskills with no one to bother you. It lagged and dragged and stopped to smoke a cigarette or two, taking its own sweet time to get to the destination. But I’m not quite sure it was worth it.
There was no rewarding “aha!” moment in the movie. The characters were underdeveloped. The main character, Elliot, started out unsure of himself, and finished the same way. I was ambivalent towards him throughout the entire film. I neither rooted for him nor pitied his circumstances. The supporting characters were cardboard cutouts (a complete misuse of Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The townspeople were mostly angry with Elliot’s decision to host Woodstock, the town’s women mostly out to lunch, and the hippie characters floated on and off screen saying chill things.
I never felt truly engaged, as I did with District 9 (two totally different movies, but being drawn in is being drawn in). The entire time it felt as though I were merely observing, and was disconnected from what was occurring on screen. The movie lacked the energy one would expect from a movie about the most famous music festival.
In the end, I’ve realized that I’m watching movies and reading books more like a crafter of tales, and less like an audience member. What have I pulled from this? Always make sure your main character, likeable or no, is able to elicit some emotional response from the audience. And the pacing should be such that the audience is never bored.