'Trainwreck: Woodstock '99' Is the Same as Last Year's Film, but Better

Directed by Jamie Crawford

Starring Jonathan Davis, Norman Cook, Jewel, Michael Lang, John Scher

Photo courtesy of Netflix

BY Alex HudsonPublished Aug 4, 2022

In the mid-2000s, two movies about Truman Capote's In Cold Blood were released in quick succession: 2005's Capote and 2006's Infamous. The former caused a big stir during the Oscars, solidifying star Phillip Seymour Hoffman's transformation from comic goofball into prestige leading man. As for the latter — well, I didn't watch that one. Why would I bother, when the first film was already so satisfying?

Netflix's Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 was similarly beaten to the punch by last year's HBO film Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage. It's tempting to accuse Netflix of ripping off the concept — except this show was first announced in 2020, so it's probably just a case of bad timing and rampant Y2K nostalgia. Great minds, etc.

Trainwreck will likely lose a few viewers because of this, which is a shame since it's the better of the two Woodstock retrospectives. The talking points are pretty much identical: the idealism of the Woodstock name was tainted by corporate greed, resulting in a lack of water on a barren, feces-covered airbase; the aggro masculinity of late '90s culture led to violence and sexual assault; Limp Bizkit made an unsafe situation even worse by stirring the crowd into a frenzy; a lack of security and an ill-conceived candlelight vigil resulted in a fiery riot while Red Hot Chili Peppers played "Fire."

The series doesn't belabour its cultural commentary, mostly focusing on how organizers dropped the ball. In searching for answers, Trainwreck addresses pertinent matters like misogyny and to what degree performers are responsible for audience safety — but, ultimately, all roads lead back to capitalism. As in Peace, Love, and Rage, concert promoter John Scher self-owns with every quote, blaming women for being sexually assaulted and doing no self-reflection whatsoever. Woodstock founder Michael Lang is less hatable, because he's mostly willing to take the L. (He died three months after filming his interview.)

Interviews with artists (including Jewel and Korn's Jonathan Davis) and festival staff illuminate the chaos behind the scenes — including a horrifying account of Fatboy Slim's late-night set in the rave tent, a detailed play-by-play of the final riot, and a look at the aftermath and media fallout. These sections go significantly deeper than last year's film, and are the show's most jaw-dropping moments.

Trainwreck is lurid entertainment, clearly intended to shock. Dubiously, the series explains how women were exploited and objectified — and then doesn't censor any of the nudity or blur any of the faces, thereby exploiting them all over again.

But, thanks to its thesis about capitalism, Trainwreck at least has a clear message to justify the ways in which it gawks at a catastrophe.

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