Movie Review: Peace, Love & Misunderstanding: Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan & Chace Crawford
Elizabeth Olsen as Zoe, Jane Fonda as Grace, & Catherine Keener as Diane in Bruce Beresford's 'Peace, Love & Misunderstanding' Photo credit: Photo by Jacob Hutchings. © Strategic Motion Ventures LLC. An IFC Films release.
From the two-time Academy Award nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Mao’s Last Dancer) comes Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, a movie starring Oscar winner Jane Fonda, and Oscar nominee Catherine Keener (Capote, Being John Malkovich) as mother and daughter who are polar opposites.
Grace (Fonda) is a senior-citizen hippie living happily in Woodstock, NY while her tightly-wound daughter Diane (Keener) is an unhappy, stiff and controlling Manhattan lawyer with two kids, Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and Jake (Natt Wolff). Diane hasn’t spoken to Grace in 20 years but when Diane’s husband (Kyle MacLachlan) unexpectedly walks out and demands a divorce, she finds herself reeling—unable to find the ground beneath her. Not knowing what else to do, she shows up at her mother’s Woodstock home, unannounced, for what she planned as a weekend visit.
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is riddled with clichés and sticky with saccharin but the cast can make you enjoy the film despite yourself. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Texas Killing Fields) strongly resembles Javier Bardem and gives off heat. His character Jude is a guitar-playing carpenter who persuades Diane to stay. One of the best scenes is of Morgan and Keener singing The Band’s tune “The Weight (Take a Load Off Fanny)” which was especially touching due to singer Levon Helm’s recent death.
Helm lived in Woodstock and enjoyed hanging out at the set. Keener said, “He was a big part of everything with us up there.” Morgan said, “He was in the studio and Jane [Fonda] hung out with him.” “They were good friends,” said Keener. “It was really sad—a big loss for everyone.”
Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl) plays Cole, who catches Zoe’s eye. Crawford says his only real connection to the Woodstock era is stories from his grandparents. He was, however, busted for pot in Texas a year ago, so maybe that helped bring authenticity.
Screenwriter Christine Mengert said, “For me, the story is really about forgiveness and letting go of the past.” Joseph Muszynski, the second half of the screenwriting team, echoed that, calling the themes of the film, “love, family, forgiveness, and moving forward.” Keener describes the film’s three generations of women as “very rebellious.” Keener felt her character, Diane, should’ve come around much sooner and “not held onto her ridiculous grudge for so long.” Fonda said, “The reunion between Grace and Diane is touching, it’s tender, human—and not at all smooth, which I found to be very real.”
Fonda, in her sixth decade of acting, makes old age look sexy. Hopefully this will set a trend for other A-List actresses. Wrinkly men in Hollywood still land romantic leads while equally-talented aging actresses rarely do. Fonda’s character embraces life with gusto. She enjoys sex, smoking (and selling) pot and staging protests. Fonda said, “I’ve never played a character like this and that’s why I wanted to do it. I was never really a hippie—although I was almost one.”
Rated R. 96 min. Opens June 8, 2012. IFC Center, 323 6th Ave near West 4th Street, NYC