Title: Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Director: Bruce Beresford (‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’)

Starring: Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener (‘Capote,’ ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (‘Watchmen,’ TV’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’), Elizabeth Olsen (‘Martha Marcy May Marlene,’ ‘Silent House’), Chace Crawford (TV’s ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’) and Nat Wolff (TV’s ‘The Naked Brothers Band,’ ‘New Year’s Eve’)

Often times families that include parents and children who are strong-willed in their ideas and beliefs are often reluctant, and find it difficult, to connect with each other. This is the main driving force in the new dramedy ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding,’ which features several generations who are long set in their beliefs, but try to reconnect through both comical and serious means. While the actors in the film genuinely connected, the story unfortunately features numerous clichés and predictable plot points of a family putting aside their differences to reunite.

‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’ follows uptight Manhattan lawyer Diane (Catherine Keener), who decides to visit her hippie mother Grace (Jane Fonda) in Woodstock for the first time in 20 years, after her husband Mark (Kyle MacLachlan) asks for a divorce. Diane brings her two teenage children, Jake (Nat Wolff) and Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), who have never met their grandmother before. What’s meant to be a weekend getaway turns into a summer adventure of romance, music, family secrets and self-discovery, as Diane and the kids learn to adapt to Grace’s hippie lifestyle. Along the way, the family finds love in Woodstock-Diane with carpenter-songwriter Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose impulsive ways contradict Diane’s demeanor; Jake connects with local teen Tara (Marissa O’Donnelll) as he shoots a movie and Zoe falls for butcher Cole (Chace Crawford), even though his job goes against her vegetarian beliefs.

Fonda, who made her return to feature film acting in the Bruce Beresford-directed dramedy, after being absent from American cinema since 2007’s ‘Georgia Rule,’ was the true stand-out star in ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding.’ Besides acting, Fonda is also partly known for her political activism in the 1960s and her longtime support for feminist causes, and effortlessly brought her beliefs to Grace’s free-loving lifestyle. While Grace does recognize her family’s differing opinions, especially Diane’s conservative views, she’s determined to prove that not all ideas in life have to be taken so seriously.

Some of the most amusing moments in ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’ occur between Fonda and her young co-stars, Olsen and Wolff, particularly when the three of them are just spending quality time together. In one comical scene, Grace introduces her grandchildren to marijuana, and encourages them to try it and embrace the fun aspects in life. Since the independent film only shot for a couple months, in New Paltz, Rhinebeck and the surrounding areas of upstate New York, the actors’ genuine connection with each other easily translated well onto the screen.

While Fonda and her co-stars seemed to have a fun time filming ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’ together, screenwriters Christina Mengert and Joseph Muszynski’s script unfortunately featured numerous clichés and anticipated plot points. For example, Diane only visited her mother after 20 years of being estranged because her marriage fell apart. She made the trip upstate because she wanted guidance of what to do with her life after her divorce. Despite her conservative nature, Diane predictably became more accepting of her mother’s hippie lifestyle after spending time with her.

The romantic relationships Diane and Zoe embark on in Woodstock are also unrealistic for their personalities. Diane’s interest in the free-spirited songwriter Jude and Zoe’s feelings for the butcher Cole just serve as a way to show that the mother and daughter are trying to explore new lifestyles. But the relationships seem forced at times, and it seems that no matter what obstacles that are presented, they’ll still end up together.

Despite Beresford’s previous success in the dramedy genre, including his Academy Award-winning film ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’ unfortunately failed to capture the director’s unique storytelling abilities. The story is filled with both predictable and unrealistic relationship and coming-of-age clichés that the main characters experience when Diane takes her children to visit her mother. Fonda was well cast in the role of Grace, however, as she brought her hippie attitude to the role. Her ease with the character’s free-spirited lifestyle helped bring the cast together while filming.

Technical: B-

Acting: B

Story: C

Overall: C+

Written by: Karen Benardello

Peace Love & Misunderstanding movie review

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *