When you’ve got veteran actress Jane Fonda in a movie with Catherine Keener and up-and-comer Elizabeth Olsen, you can’t help but be a little curious. The idea that these ladies are in a movie together, playing three generations of women seems fascinating. However, their talents are totally wasted in Bruce Beresford‘s hippie dramedy Peace, Love & Misunderstanding.

Find out why in our review…

The Players:

  • Directors: Bruce Beresford
  • Writers: Joseph Muszynski, Christina Mengert
  • Starring: Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Nat Wolff

The Plot:

After her husband asks for a divorce, Diane (Catherine Keener) takes her two teenage children Jake and Zoe (Nat Wolff and Elizabeth Olsen) to meet their estranged, hippie grandmother (Jane Fonda) in Woodstock.

The Good:

  • Setting: Woodstock is a beautiful place. Cinematographer Andre Fleuren does a great job capturing the green countryside. If anything, this film is good publicity for the once-famous town.
  • Jane Fonda: One of the few things this movie has to offer is Jane Fonda. She lights up the screen with her depiction of Grace, a free-spirited grandmother who’s stuck in 1969. Her character is a type. She smokes and grows pot. She attends weekly rallies at the town square. She hosts full moon drum circle parties. And she paints portraits of naked men in her home. Still, Fonda overcomes all of those hackneyed hippie characteristics and stands out.
  • Chace Crawford: There’s something about Chace Crawford‘s Cole that catches the eye. Cole is a literary local butcher who woos Olsen’s Zoe in Woodstock. Crawford’s downplayed performance adds depth to an otherwise ill-conceived character.

The Bad:

  • Wasted Talent: Despite Fonda’s charming execution onscreen, one has to wonder why such a stellar cast signed up to do this movie. The performances by Keener, Olsen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are squandered due to the poorly written script. Keener’s Diane is described as an uptight New York City lawyer, yet she’s never seen being such. She goes skinny dipping, sings at a town fair and has a love affair with one of the locals. Making her a lawyer doesn’t make her uptight. Then there’s Olsen, whose performance in last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene had a lot of people talking. Here she plays a pretentious, opinionated vegan. In order to get away with a character as unlikable as Zoe, Olsen needed to be charming. She never is, but that may not be her fault.
  • The Story: And here lies the main problem. This is an unoriginal story of daughters judging and resenting their mothers for the mistakes they’ve made. At the center you’ve got Diane, a middle-aged woman who finds herself in need of a vacation when her husband asks for a divorce. She goes back home where she is forced to reconcile with her mother, also meeting a man who basically saves her. The film wants to say a lot about family relationships and letting go, but it gets caught up in hippie culture cliches that it barely says anything at all.
  • Video: One of the most annoying things about this film is the video camera effect. Keener’s teenage son Jake (Wolff) is an aspiring filmmaker who uses his camera as a third arm. He records everything and everyone around him, whether they like it or not. Beresford was probably trying to be hip by adding this “hand-held” camera effect, but it backfired. The detail feels cartoonish. It doesn’t feel like we’re seeing the world through Jake’s eyes. It feels fake.

Overall:

Jane Fonda and Woodstock can’t save Peace, Love and Misunderstanding from feeling like a hackneyed, made-for-Lifetime movie. The talents of Keener and Olsen are totally wasted on a story that plays on hippie culture cliches and cheap romance antics.

Rating: 3/10

 Peace, Love and Misunderstanding opens in select theaters Friday, June 8, 2012.

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Trailer:


Will you watch Peace, Love and Misunderstanding?