'Peace, Love and Misunderstanding' is lazy and sloppy
"Peace, Love and Misunderstanding," a wan comedy directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener, is sloppily written and entirely too predictable, says Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald, though Jane Fonda's performance is a kick.
Seattle Times movie critic
'Peace, Love and Misunderstanding,' with Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chace Crawford, Elizabeth Olsen, Nat Wolff. Directed by Bruce Beresford, from a screenplay by Christina Mengert and Joseph Muszynski. 96 minutes. Rated R for drug content and some sexual references. Varsity.
You could watch Bruce Beresford's wan comedy "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" with the sound off, and still follow the plot easily just by watching Catherine Keener's hair. When it's straight and sleek, she's unhappy and uptight. When it's tousled and wavy, she's happy and relaxed. Guess how it is in the beginning? Guess how it is at the end? That's the movie.
The writing here is so lazy it's practically an outline, and the pacing is sloppy. Tightly wound Manhattan lawyer Diane (Keener), facing an unexpected divorce, goes to Woodstock with her teenage kids to visit her laid-back hippie mother, Grace (Jane Fonda), and becomes, eventually, less uptight. Diane and her daughter, Zoe (Elisabeth Olsen), and son, Jake (Nat Wolff), all meet potential love interests in Woodstock immediately (you can almost see the cartoon hearts over their heads), and by the time the movie's a half-hour old it feels over. Various silly contrivances push things past 90 minutes, for no particular reason. (Why would vegan Zoe date a butcher — and only get upset about it after the fact?)
So you'd think "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" would be unwatchable — but it's not quite, thanks to the shifting subtleties of expression in the talented Olsen's cameo face, to Keener's ability to infuse an underwritten character with sympathetic real-person quirks, and to Fonda. She's a force of nature here, looking absurdly glamorous with a mass of pewter curls and a flattering rainbow wardrobe of trailing skirts and cinched-waist tunics. (Grace appears to be the only aging hippie in Woodstock who employs a stylist.) Floating happily through the movie in a haze of marijuana smoke and oddball serenity, Fonda makes lines like "I pulled a butterfly from my stomach, and two magnificent peacocks emerged" seem perfectly reasonable. She's a kick; too bad the movie isn't.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org