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"Peace. Love and Misunderstanding": Jane Fonda Deserves Better 

Wednesday, Jun 6 2012

How much longer must we wait for a vehicle worthy of Jane Fonda, whose past few roles are just shy of elder abuse? Three generations of fine actresses are squandered in Bruce Beresford's Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, an incompetently structured film that pits hippies against squares with the usual wearying results. This head-hammering, clash-of-values family-healing dramedy makes sure to literalize all of its uplifting messages; gentle admonitions about "letting go" are immediately followed by a bright yellow balloon's release into a cerulean sky. Reeling from her husband's demand for a divorce, pinched Manhattan lawyer Diane (Catherine Keener) drives to Woodstock with her two teenaged children in tow for a reprieve at the home of her earth-goddess mother, Grace (Jane Fonda). Diane, appalled by Mom's pot-growing and free-loving, hasn't spoken to Grace in 20 years; her children, Whitman-quoting vegan Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and twerpy aspiring filmmaker Jake (Nat Wolff), are meeting their batik-dress-wearing granny for the first time. Written by first-timers Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert and directed by old-timer Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy), PL&M chucks specific characterization and conflict for countless clichés (both visual and oral), pop-psych bromides ("I promised myself I would never enable her again," Diane says after she bails Grace out of jail for weed-dealing), and semi-topical headlines (Chace Crawford's butcher of organic meats lectures on GMOs).

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Melissa Anderson


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