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Movie Review: Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding

June 12, 2012

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding is a fairly rote piece of fluff, but exemplary performances by the talented cast make the film worth a watch.  Catherine Keener stars as Diane, an icy and uptight lawyer who has just found out her husband wants a divorce. This event serves as the impetus for her to visit her estranged mother Grace (Jane Fonda) who lives in the town of Woodstock. For reasons never fully explained, the two have not spoken for over 20 years. That means that grandma has never had the opportunity to meet her grandchildren Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and Jake (Nat Wolff).  Despite that minor detail, Grace doesn’t seem that rattled when Diane and the kids show up on her doorstep, she expected their arrival, since she had a dream about a baby bird returning to the nest or some nonsense. Grace is a free-spirited soul who has fiercely held on to her hippie roots. She lets her chickens wander freely through her house (much to Diane’s chagrin) and manages a tidy side-business growing some kind bud in her basement. Diane is immediately annoyed, while the grandkids can’t believe their good fortune at having an impossibly hip memaw.

You’ll never guess what happens after Diane starts meeting the local townsfolk-her stiff and tightly wound demeanor slowly starts to unravel as Diane discovers a completely different side of herself. This plot point is helpfully punctuated by the gradual changes in her hair and wardrobe (uptight women always wear a severe bun or other high maintenance hair style). Grace arrives wearing a power-suit and meticulously flat-ironed hair, but she magically settles into a boho-chic look with perfectly tousled beach wave hair after spending some time in the city. This phenomenon has never actually happened to my friends, or me but it always happens in movies.

Naturally every member of Diane’s family finds immediate love in the intoxicating city. Diane is smitten by a local furniture-maker/sometime musician (an absolutely charming Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Zoe manages to overcome her initial disgust with the way too good looking local butcher (Chace Crawford), and Jake nurtures a first time crush on town cutie (Marissa O’Donnell). Meanwhile the two kids get to bond with their long-lost grandma who spews out occasional bursts of wisdom and advice. Diane’s cold heart slowly thaws out and she comes to appreciate her eccentric mom. It’s predictable at best, but the movie has a certain charm.

Fonda is a lot of fun as Grace. She seems very comfortable in the role, and lends quite a bit of likability to her goofy character. Keener is the master of playing the unhappy and uptight, so it is no surprise that she shines in the role. The two actresses are the principal reasons to see the film, because the story isn’t particularly strong.

It’s perplexing that we are never given a reason as to why Grace and Diane have not been in contact for so many years. Surely something truly horrific must have occurred for Diane to deny Grace of meeting her grandchildren, but curiously this is never addressed in the movie, and I nearly went mad trying to imagine what had transpired between the two. Surely it was not merely a difference in personality and philosophy? Everything else is neat and tidy in the movie, from Grace’s open-armed welcome to perfect romantic couplings. You have to dismiss these contrivances and appreciate the performances in order to enjoy the movie, but it’s a pleasant way to pass an evening.

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding is rated “R”. Directed by Bruce Beresford. Written by Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert. Starring Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chace Crawford, Nat Wolff and Marissa O’Donnell.

Rating 3/5

The film is playing in the following theaters in Kansas City:

Tivoli Manor Square

  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Hearing Devices Available
 4050 Pennsylvania Avenue, Kansas City MO 64111 | (913) 383-7756
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Hearing Devices Available

11118 Holmes Road, Kansas City MO 64131 | (816) 942-1131




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