(Getty Images, BCDF Pictures) The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
Cliched and predictable, this is a waste of a talented cast.
With little to say in its unoriginal story, Bruce Beresford
's Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding
wastes a terrific cast and plods along to a predictable outcome. I can't be sure what the actors saw in this script that made them want to be a part of it. It's not well-written, the characters are bland and cliched, almost everything about it reeks of tedium.
The plot brings three generations of a New York family together when Diane (Catherine Keener
) reacts to the news of her husband's (Kyle MacLachlan
) affair by running back home to her estranged mother (Jane Fonda
) with her two kids, 19 year-old Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen
) and 15 year-old Jake (Nat Wolff
). The film wants us to believe the homecoming will reknidle the love between mother and daughter, lost long ago, and adhere the kids to their grandma Grace. Along the way, everyone will, of course, find their soulmate and learn what it is to live again - neat, tidy, and immensely boring.
Fonda will probably be cheered by certain critics for this performance. She smokes pot, listens to the Grateful Dead ad nauseum, and holds "goddess of the Moon" parties with her fellow old souls in her backyard. She's an aged hippie, lost in her past, and this makes her sad... very very sad. Sad to us, that is. In the warped reality that is this film, she is the matriarch of this entire hippie community. She has it all figured out and imparts her worldly wisdom to her newfound grandchildren and daughter. The kids buy it. Diane, not so much. Grace is a walking cliche, a free-spirit who lives life to its fullest! This allows Fonda to bring out her inner flower child. She sings and dances and smokes up a storm, all while waxing philosophic and invading everyone's privacy. She doles out fortune-cookie wisdom after ripping bong hits and we're supposed to believe she's some kind of sage? Please.
Unfortunately for the movie, Grace is the film's best character. Everyone else floats along, collecting a paycheck and waiting for wrap day. Keener plays her typical angsty middle-aged character, but has little to work with. She hates her mom because Grace sold Diane's friends weed at her wedding years back. Yes, it's an unforgivable crime. No wonder she kept her kids from Grace for years. She might sell them pot. Enthralling. Grace sets her daughter up with the local heartthrob, Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan
), and they hit it off after they go swimming and sing "The Weight" at a farmer's market together. Their romance lacks any chemistry however and Jude is one-dimensional at best, a pretty face.
Zoe falls for another pretty face, the local butcher (Chace Crawford
), a doe-eyed hunk who kills for a living. She is philisophically opposed to his occupation (she's vegan) but can't help that old fashioned feeling. Olsen is a talented actress, and shows some flashes of that when she gets angry, but her character is, again, so thinly written, it's impossible to really care one way or another what she cares about. Same goes for her little brother. Jake carries a video camera around with him during the entire film and stutters his way through his own little love affair with a local hippie chick (Marissa O'Donnell
). He is wholly unlikable, at one point showing the butcher footage of Zoe insulting him just to see how he reacts. The little shit.
Guess how things turn out for everyone? If you said peachy keen you guessed right. Grandma Grace turns out to be right all along. Put love into the world and you'll get it back... or some such hippie crap. She may live in the past, but she wants her daughter to forgive theirs. Once she does, it's one big happy family. What a long strange shitty trip it's been.
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