Peace, Love and Misunderstanding – 2012
Director Bruce Beresford
Starring Catherine Keener, Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chace Crawford, Nat Wolf, Kyle MacLachlan
Screenplay by Christina Mengert, Joseph Muszynski
I’ve never been a fan of Jane Fonda, but then, she’s never been this bad. I can’t speak with total authority, though. A few years ago, when she made her big comeback with Monster In Law, I was smart enough, according to my wife, to avoid this. It’s bad form to write movie reviews in the first person, but this time, I figure it doesn’t matter.
If you add up the good performances, subtract the bad performances, and then do the same with the good and bad parts of the script, the viewer of this film comes out the loser by a long shot. I usually like Olsen, Keener and Morgan. Here they are good, but in no way challenged by the script. The rest of the cast, except, perhaps, Crawford, are completely swallowed by it.
Fonda plays a hippie who, surprise, lives in Woodstock, smokes dope, screams at the moon and lets chickens run rampant through the house. She has some convoluted reasons for why, but I didn’t really care to remember that. She has a daughter (Keener) who has not seen her in 20 years. The daughter, named Diane, has 2 kids and her husband recently asked her for divorce. What better time to pack up the kids and visit your mother, who you last saw when you had her arrested on your wedding day. Keener plays a somewhat reasonable conservative. I say reasonable because she does not abandon all her beliefs and buy the crap her mother is peddling. Well not all the crap.
In the town of Woodstock, there are love interests for all. What false crisis await each of these people? Should we care? Nope. The boy kid (Wolf), makes a movie that does not make sense, but it wins an award. Maybe they were comparing it to the rest of this film. Olsen is a person who objects to eating meat, so of course, she falls for a guy in the meat shop. Perhaps she would have enjoyed being on The Bachelorette, instead.
The problem with this movie is not just its tired “You can go home again” premise. If done well, it would be passable. The never-ending nonsense that Fonda spouts has no basis in anyone’s reality. This is one time in particular Fonda’s politics falls in line with her character. As one who was selfish enough to pose for a picture in the seat of a battery used to fire on American troops in Vietnam, I should be able to totally absorb her selfish mother who exposed her child and grand children to sex, drugs and bad folk music. One thing Fonda does well in this movie is she looks like Frances McDormand on the box cover. McDormand might have been at least entertaining in the role.
As for Roseanna Arquette…what the hell happened?
Beresford is hard to explain as well. He’s made very few clunkers. His most recent film, Mao’s Last Dancer, was one of his best. There is nothing here that distinguishes him from the director of any of the straight to video American Pie films.
Keener’s character does well to call her out on this nonsense, but seems to look past the fact Fonda actually introduced her kids to pot. Then of course, there’s the end of the movie. I don’t want to talk about that, though. Instead, I will treat you with this Terence Mann quote, from one of my favorite films, Field of Dreams:
“How about this: “Peace, love, dope”? Now get the hell out of here! “
(*1/2 out of *****)