Peace, love and misunderstanding

DIRECTOR: Bruce Beresford

CAST: Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Kyle MacLachlan, Elizabeth Olsen


RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes


The combined acting muscle of Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen – playing three generations of women in a fractious family – is not enough to lift Peace, Love and Misunderstanding above the level of comfortable mediocrity that one has come to expect from former filmmaking powerhouse Bruce Beresford. The director of Driving Miss Daisy is better known nowadays for made-for-TV movies.

Set in a Woodstock, New York, that seems more like a hippie Oz than any place that exists in the real world, the dramatic comedy centres on matriarch Grace (Fonda) (pictured), a greying free spirit and freelance pot dealer who is visited by her uptight lawyer daughter, Diane (Keener), when Diane’s husband (Kyle MacLachlan) suddenly announces he wants a divorce.

In tow with Diane are her teenage children, Zoe (Olsen) and Jake (Nat Wolff). They’ve never met Gran, thanks to an estrangement that has kept Diane from speaking to Grace for 20 years, a falling out over sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. Grace enjoys all three, and Diane, presumably, doesn’t.

Although Wolff – a veteran of the The Naked Brothers Band television series – makes a successful transition from child star to adolescent actor in his role as Jake, but the movie really belongs to Fonda, Keener and Olsen.

It’s a shame that the material doesn’t deserve them.

The film is little more than a cheesy set-up for the kind of pat reconciliation that occurs in any given episode of a TV sitcom.

The joke of the premise could not be broader: Grace is a mellow, moon-worshipping peacenik, while Diane is a brittle Republican shrew who doesn’t know how to enjoy life.

Zoe, for her part, is more like Grace than her mother. She’s a health nut and poetry buff. But her storyline focuses less on family dynamics than on her budding romance with the local butcher’s assistant (Chace Crawford).

Unfortunately, he smokes, hunts and eats meat. Fear not.

Under the influence of moon-light and a massive infusion of Hollywood movie magic – not to mention a bit of Grace’s marijuana – all those obstacles, legitimate or not, will be whisked away in a swirl of pixie dust. It’s also entirely possible that Diane might find love on the rebound, in the form of Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a hunky furniture-maker/musician whose kiss, apparently, is more potent than Grace’s weed. After Grace fixes Jude up with her daughter, it isn’t long before the two are head over heels in love. Even Jake, in this hormone-addled environment, meets a girl (Marissa O’Donnell, playing a sweet-faced barista).

It’s like A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Catskills. The wit, of course, isn’t quite Shakespearean. When Jude tells Diane that she needs to just get over her anger at her mother – after a fairly preposterous plot twist premised on the quenchable nature of Grace’s libido – Diane likens her esentment to a balloon that she’s unwilling to let go of.

No, Jude tells her, it’s more like a sandbag, holding you down.

Maybe he’s right.

I felt the same way about the movie, which bogs down a talented trio of actresses with cliches and clunky dialogue. - Washington Post

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