Friday, June 8, 2012


Carole Mallory


Peace Love and Misunderstanding Will Put You to Sleep

Posted: 06/08/2012 4:51 pm

Why did the iconic Jane Fonda agree to breathe life into this dribble? Much as I was rooting for Fonda,Peace, Love and Misunderstanding will not resurrect her movie career from which she was on hiatus for 15 years. Oh, her acting is up to snuff though at times a bit broad. This is director Bruce Beresford's fault, but it is her charm and sense of humor about herself that is her saving grace. She plays a sexy hippie grandmother, Grace, who is an auntie mame or sorts who is still living in Woodstock, N.Y., as though it were the 80s. She grows pot, sells pot and smokes pot. This in itself could have been a good film if developed, but writers Joseph Muszinsky and Christina Mengert got moralistic and had the need to create a cliché ridden story around a family torn apart by Fonda's hippie, liberal ways. This does not work.
As Fonda's estranged daughter, Diane (Katherine Keener) does not utter a false note. An uptight corporate lawyer, she walks away with this film with her raw sincerity despite its contrived plot. After being estranged from her mother for 20 years, Diane is going through a divorce from Mark (Kyle McLaughlin) and wants to visit her mother in upstate New York. Years ago at Diane and Mark's wedding, Grace sold marijuana to their guests whom she also turned on. Alas, Diane had her own mother arrested.
Cut to today as Diane walks into Grace's charming, but outdated, hippy pad and says, "Mom it reeks of pot in here." She scans the book shelf and sees a copy of Marijuana Growers Handbook and photos of a gorgeous young Diane (Fonda). Diane has brought her two teenagers, Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), Jake (Nat Wolff). In no time Grace is turning Zoe and Cole on and realizes that telling them stories of her old sexploits brings yawns to her living room, so she offers to show them her 'grow room' which enchants them. "Stay away from the brown stuff or anything with needles. That's what took down Janis and Jimmy." Zoe is an aspiring writer suffering from writer's block. Grace as she passes a bong says, "This stuff loosens you up from halted tongue." Here the screenwriters force their attempt to be cute on the viewer. Sad. "Every writer knows you write from your spirit. You need a muse." Grace says implying Zoe should make grass her muse.
Soon Diane spots a drop dead gorgeous Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and a romance flourishes, but almost dies when Diane discovers Grace had had an affair years ago with Jude. Simultaneously as only a clichéd screenwriter could create, Diane's daughter, Zoe becomes enamored with the town butcher Cole, also drop dead gorgeous played by Chace Crawford.
Grace lectures a prudish Diane, "Don't be a cock blocker" which is supposed to breathe life into this dying script.
Grace overhears a conversation in which Diane lectures Zoe. "I heard what you said to Zoe."
"I was upset."
"You were also cruel. You can transform that." Grace says.
At this point the film begins its lecture in how to heal a dysfunctional family. Grace says, "Your Dad asked me for the divorce. Not the other way around."
"Can you blame him," Diane replies.
"Why does the past mean so much to you?" Grace asks.
"This from a woman still living in 1969." Diane says and once the anger and the truth are revealed between mother and daughter, the healing begins with a gong. No subtlety here. 
The premise of the movie made me want to see i t -- the coming together of a dysfunctional family. But the predictable nature of the script just put me to sleep and it could you as well. If you have insomnia see "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding." But if you are of sound mind and sleep, skip it.

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