Full of, well, peace, love and misunderstanding, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is a breath of fresh air. That being said, it’s not a film to be taken seriously. It’s one step short of a chick flick with zero to no surprises, but it’s still sweet and delightful, just in time for summer.
Requesting a divorce is never well timed, especially for Diane (Catherine Keener). Nonetheless, she is very subtle with her astonishment, mostly in part due to her obligation as a flawless dinner party host. No screaming, no feisty backlashes. Diane instead resigns to visiting her mother upstate in Woodstock, New York—who she hasn’t seen for 20 years.
Without notice or explanation, her college student daughter Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and teenage son Jake (Nat Wolff) are instructed to come along for the ride. Never having met their grandmother, their curiosity is relentless the whole car ride up. When Diane finally breaks the news, it’s a hard pill to swallow for all of them. And then they arrive at grandma’s.
Grace (Jane Fonda) is a bit of a legend in the small town—the kind of town right out of a summer love story: rolling green hills, eternally sunny skies and a place where everyone knows your name.
Ironically living a life reminiscent of the actual 1969 Woodstock festival, Grace resides in a house on a lake, which later proves to be a great place to host a full-moon goddess celebration. She has chickens (with no names because she believes they are not hers to name) wondering the house, a massive marijuana harvest, spends her days peacefully protesting the war in town, does not have a bad word to say and is instantly brought to tears at the arrival of her daughter.
Diane, the uptight lawyer from New York, has little to no understanding of her mother’s mentality or life choices. But Zoe and Jake are simply fascinated by her, and Diane is not happy with the idea of that at all.
With her long, gray flowing hair, hippie fashion style and passion for just about everything, Jane Fonda is simply wonderful. Her off-screen moments only build anticipation to her return. She lights up the room and is undeniably the best part of the whole movie.
Always a favorite local party spot, Grace hosts a party that ultimately (and suggestively intentionally) is a matchmaking soiree. Diane meets Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), awkward Jake finds a love interest of his own and feminist, vegetarian, anti-establishment Zoe flirts with the town butcher, Cole (Chace Crawford).
Fresh off of a split, Diane finally begins to let her hair down despite herself. Begrudgingly, and at the obvious insistence of her mother, she finds herself falling for Jude. And Zoe, even though Cole represents everything she stands against, eventually ends up in his truck bed.
After extending their stay a few days more, Diane, Zoe and Jake take the opportunity to revive relationships and start some new ones.
Getting back to the full-moon party mentioned before, both Diane and Zoe experience cataclysmic news (each exclusively), turning the summer into much more of a reality than the haven they were fully emerged in. Hell hath no fury like a lawyer scorned, and Diane reverts back to her New York self: mostly cold, sometimes cruel and unremorseful.
The family’s time together in Woodstock is invigorating and even sometimes nostalgic. All three women’s constitutions and temperaments are constantly at odds, which is the obvious intention. But even though the point is thrown in viewers’ faces from the get-go, it doesn’t really matter. Watching Fonda dance around, Keener singing a duet at the town fair and Olsen flirting her way into dreamy Crawford’s arms is a mindless pleasure.
When all goes to hell, although integral for any plot, it is saddening. It’s easy to like these characters even with their flaws, so audiences don’t really want their peace and happiness to be thwarted in any way. Not to be mistaken for a deep, emotional connection with the story, the script by first-time screenwriters Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert still packs a bit of a punch and fondness.
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding
is a movie that can be missed. It’s predictable, sometimes silly and even walks the line of cliché, but Fonda’s lively performance and infectious love combined with the summertime charm of Woodstock are enough to keep it alive.
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is now playing in select theaters. It will be available On Demand June 15.
For more information, visit the film’s official website.