Film Review: Jane Fonda Misused in ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’
CHICAGO – Jane Fonda portraying an aging hippie seems like a slam dunk. She was a 1960s hippie at one time, right? Well, it’s obvious she wasn’t the type of hippie personified in “Peace, Love & Misunderstanding,” co-starring Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen. Nobody was that type of of hippie.
Taking the route of clichés over character or substance, “Peace, Love & Misunderstanding” is a fable of a survivor from the 1960s era that could be argued as taking place in a parallel universe, or is written (by Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert) through people who didn’t experience what that era meant, but this is what they hoped a hippie character would be like. Set in Woodstock, New York (naturally), the narrative plods through a series of groovy references, strung together like mismatched love beads, but signifying stereotypical laziness and producing boredom.
Diane (Catherine Keener) is an uptight lawyer in New York City whose husband Mark (Kyle MacLachlan) has just asked for a divorce. Distraught and confused, Diane gathers her two teenage children, Jake (Nat Wolff) and Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and escapes to her mother Grace (Jane Fonda) in Woodstock, New York. It is revealed that Diane hasn’t seen Grace in twenty years, due to her hippie mama selling pot to the guests at her wedding.
Grace is a soul survivor of the 1960s, regaling anyone who will listen with stories of giving birth at Woodstock, sleeping with Leonard Cohen and how she survives by “bartering and raising chickens” at her sprawling upstate New York commune. The Woodstock town folk she hangs out with have weekly protests, full moon “be-ins” and jobs such as woodcarving. Love is in the air, as Diane meets hunky carpenter Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Zoe canoodles with hunky butcher Cole (Chace Crawford) and Jakes hooks up with flower child Tara (Marissa O’Donnell). The healing spirit of hippiedom is about to save the day.
Photo credit: Jacob Hutchings for IFC Films