Arts & Culture » Movies

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Little bong hit - What's so funny about corn, pap and caterwauling?



Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Directed by Bruce Beresford. Written by Christina Mengert and Joseph Muszynski. Starring Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Olsen, Chace Crawford, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyle MacLachlan. Running time: 96 minutes. Not rated.


There are precious few good roles for women of a certain age, but it's still distressing to see the immortal Jane Fonda reduced to playing a bliss-addicted hippy granny in absurdly corny, crowd pleasing pap. At least Jane still looks fabulous, traipsing around in flowing scarves, peasant dresses and a half-ton of curly, gray-streaked extensions in her hair as Grace, the freest of spirits still living the '60s dream in Woodstock, N.Y., but now tasked with providing love and wisdom to the newer generations. Her uptight yuppie-lawyer daughter Diane (Katherine Keener) is facing divorce, and oddly heads for the comfort of the mom she's been estranged from for decades. Along for the ride are her bright, surly teens, Jacob (Nat Wolf) who obsessively videotapes everything, and Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) who obsessively pouts about everyone and everything in her line of sight.

Safely tucked away under one drafty, farmhouse roof, the three women and one boy, set about hashing out (pun intended) their differences over tea, drum circles and a few huge bong loads. The healing process is accelerated because everyone of these cynical city folks find love in the less complicated, touristy backwoods, and the subplots eat up screen time that otherwise would've been spent on more mother-daughter bitch sessions than needed.

The script, by rookies Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert is steeped in obviousness; politically aware vegan Zoe falls for a shy, hunky butcher. Keener meanwhile saddles up to a motorcycle-riding folkie, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who tries to smirk his way through the role, and then performs an utterly appalling rendition of "The Weight," which the late Levon Helm was mercifully spared from hearing.

Morgan's awful caterwauling is just one of the cringe worthy elements in this cheesy romp, which takes quality actors and burdens them with hokey dialogue and hackneyed situations.

Director Bruce Beresford's career has wobbled between excellence (Tender Mercies) and schlock (Her Alibi) and he was due for a follow-up stinker to the very fine Mao's Last Dancer.

Beresford's content to sit back and watch his cast wade though a river of sentimentalism and cliché boomer nostalgia that's a mile wide and an inch deep. Maybe in another 20 years or so Gen X-ers will start making movies about the underappreciated majesty of Urge Overkill, and how "you just had to be there" for Lollapalooza, but I sure as hell hope not.


Showing at the Landmark Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.

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