Jane Fonda is an icon of American cinema. Go to IMDb and scroll through the titles of her films, and be amazed by the length of her film talents. She has done comedy and drama, westerns and science fiction; always winning praises for her characters. Her latest comedy/drama is Peace, Love & Misunderstanding.
The story is of Diane (Catherine Keener) a NYC lawyer with two teenage kids Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and Jake (Nat Wolff). As the story opens, her husband Mark (Kyle MacLachlan) tells her he wants a divorce. She is shocked by this and decides to take the kids to Woodstock and her mom Grace (Jane Fonda). Grace and Diane have not seen each other in 20 years and the grandkids do not know their grandmother.
As the kids settle in, they meet the locals. Anyone who has seen one of these movies knows exactly where this is going to end. Mom meets Jude (Jeffery Dean Morgan), a carpenter and singer/songwriter. They have a spark and attraction.
The big hump of the story by Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert is that something happened a long time ago between Diane and Grace that caused the estrangement. The film is about rebooting your life and discovering that sometimes you can go home again.
The problem with the movie is very basic – there is no real conflict in the story. Within the first fifteen minutes, you know exactly the outcome of every person in the film. There are few surprises in Peace, Love & Misunderstanding and at 96 minutes the movie runs too long.
There are some positives – it looks great, with visions of Woodstock framed as a travelogue. Director Bruce Beresford gives a loving touch to the sets and backgrounds, making everyone want to get back to the nature of the area.
Elizabeth Olsen has become the ‘It girl’ in Hollywood. She has been putting-in independent performance after independent performance with a grace one would expect from a more seasoned actress. She is one of the most talented young performers to emerge in the last few years. Very soon, she should be the biggest actress on the planet. She holds her own in scene after scene with Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener.
Fonda looks wonderful in what could have been a stereotypical role. She plays the hippie who still burns numbers and paints pictures of naked people. As someone who could be a great-grandmother, she is still one heck of a cool chick and looks great in tie-dye dresses. One has to wonder how she could afford such a stunning place with the salary of an artist.
Catherine Keener is the person who has the biggest emotional arc. She takes the role with a workman like grace but doesn’t deliver that knock-out punch one would expect from the character. For a lawyer, she does not have that killer instinct one would expect.
Rosanna Arquette plays Darcy in a ‘blink and you miss it’ moment during the film. She is a talented performer regulated to a very minor role. It is sad to see how far her star has fallen.
To be honest, there’s nothing more pathetic than an old hippie, a person who has never grown up and lives in her very distant past. The world of Woodstock has moved on and the flower children are now flower grandparents. Peace, Love & Misunderstanding feels like a Lifetime movie with a stellar cast. It is basically a boring misstep for all of those involved.