Friday, June 8

REVIEW: Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Directed by Bruce Beresford
Comedy Drama
1 hour 36 minutes
From BCDF Pictures

Jane Fonda
Catherine Keener
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Elizabeth Olsen
Nat Wolff
Chace Crawford

Break out the bong.  Fill with your liquid of choice.  Drop some juicy buds in there and kick back and enjoy a fun Jane Fonda movie.  The lady is kicking it in this pastoral piece about a hippie woman from the Woodstock days who hasn't lost her knack for love and lovemaking and is now getting the chance to experience it anew with an estranged daughter and her two teenagers.

I am so wild about Jane Fonda-- and always have been-- but since she has returned to making films after a lengthy absence, I haven't been so impressed with her new batch.  Of course she was the best thing about Monster-in-Law and Georgia Rule, but neither of them was all that memorable.  While P,L&M doesn't plumb the depths of great thinking or masterful strokes of genius, it is nonetheless a total delight and Fonda's best in this new grouping.  I hope it's a rollicking success.

It really is a great deal about smoking pot.  It's on everyone's lips, literally and figuratively, we see it grown, we see giant buds in baggies.  It takes place in and around Woodstock, where Jane's character attended the festival in '69, and where her water broke and she gave birth to her only child, a daughter.  Fonda still lives there and is seemingly the matriarch of the entire community, made up of a lot of hippies with gray hair and pot bellies.

There are three generations hightlighted here and part of the fun for me, at least, is it's the older generation that is smoking the weed night and day and the two younger generations and the straighter ones.  And c'mon, this is certainly a switcheroo in the old plot device worked and reworked for many a generation in movies.  And adding to my bemusement is that is was all done so amusingly, so winningly.  I just know I had a smile on my face for 90 minutes or so.  Could it have been a contact high?

Ok, where was I?  Can somebody tell me what I was talking about?  Oh yeah, Catherine got pissed off at Jane 20 years ago and has been in absentia ever since.  But now that her husband announces he wants a divorce, off she goes with her teens to visit Grandma.

Catherine doesn't mind flouting the doobies in front of her kids as much as she minds Jane discussing free love and sex.  Grandma thinks if you're not doing it all the time, life is passing you by.  Catherine would just as soon, thank you very much, her kids not get clued in to Jane's free-wheeling ways.

And from there it just flows on until the admittedly all-American, happy ending, which reminds me (gulp...!) of that romantic comedy dreck, but I got through it.

I try to see director Bereford's new films when I become aware of them.  If you don't know his work, it includes Tender Mercies, Crimes of the Heart, Driving Miss Daisy, Black Robe, Rich in Love and A Good Man in Africa

I think several pages from Fonda's lives have been added to the script.  She claims she never was a hippie, but her thinking and attitudes from her many lives are sprinkled throughout here.  Was she typing some stuff on her own computer?  Well, whatever the case, it's rich and sprinkled with aphorisms and mini-homilies and expressions of all those hopes and dreams that we've all had and have.  The film offers a glimpse into what life could be like when it's lived more simply and celebrated for being happy about what you already have.

Catherine Keener was well-cast as the parent-daughter.  She was a perfect match for Fonda.  Brava ladies.  The supporting cast was also a total delight.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan has the happiest-looking face I can recall.  The youngest somethings will help draw in all those teengers who populate the cinemaplexes these days.  Elizabeth Olsen (a younger sister to the Olsen twins if you didn't know) and Nat Wolff as Keener's kids were pitch perfect.  And if all this weren't enough, I am not kidding... Chace Crawford is in this movie.  Honest.  Stop screaming...

Have I mentioned I LOVE JANE...?  If you don't, then not only is there no need for you to stubbornly not see this film, but you're not likely to even read this review knowing she's in it.  But if you're fond of Fonda, then I recommend you put on a tie-dyed shirt, put a flower in your hair, take a toke off the one-hit and head down the highway to Peace, Love and Misunderstanding.  If you've got a teenaged granddaughter, take her with you.  Here's something you can do together.


NEXT POSTING:  Gene Hackman (finally!)

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