An unfortunate disaster is what comes of this familial dramedy that attempts to be far too many things, and misses the mark on nearly all of them. Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding is one of those movies that has true potential, in this case mainly by way of the tremendous acting trio of Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, and Elizabeth Olsen. Sadly, even the talent of these ladies isn’t enough to keep afloat this stereotypical, ho-hum, overdone, and surprisingly preachy movie about family, relationships, love, life, and about a million other things.
The movie starts out swiftly, immediately bypassing introductions and throwing us into the thick of the plot: Uptight New York lawyer Diane’s (Keener) marriage to Mark (Kyle MacLachlan) has fallen apart, and after Mark abruptly asks Diane for a divorce, she packs her bags and takes her two grown children to the small town of Woodstock to visit her estranged mother Grace (Fonda). A far cry from her sophisticated New York life, Diane must confront the past by way of Grace, whose laid-back, hippie lifestyle is stuck in the seventies.
Much of the movie focuses on the interactions amongst the three generations of women: Grace, Diane, and Diane’s daughter Zoe (Olsen). Free spirit Grace and her polar opposite daughter Diane continually butt heads on every matter imaginable, from the matter of war protests to marajuana to the fact that Grace keeps chickens in the house. It is disclosed that she and her mother are estranged because of Diane’s unhappiness with how Grace spent her time during Diane’s childhood, and this behavior became too much for Diane to handle when she was able to get out of the house. Thus, it begins to concern Diane when her Columbia-attending daughter Zoe and aspiring filmmaker son Jake (Nat Wolff) begin displaying some of their grandmother’s less than favorable tendencies.
Still, Diane’s hard shell begins to crack under the easy-going demeanor of Grace’s delightfully handsome friend Jude (Jeffery Dean Morgan). Their fun is all well and good until things go to far…in front of Zoe and Jake, who also take their turns at various relationships. Vegetarian Zoe’s reluctant relationship with the cute butcher Cole (Chace Crawford) has it’s fair share of ups and downs, as Zoe’s conflicting emotions (for the hunky piece of meat Cole and the former animals, now literal pieces of meat) sway back and forth at whim. Nerdy Jake, whose camera is attached to his hand like a prosthetic, finds a match in the equally geeky and adorable Tara (Marissa O’Donnell). One of the best parts in the whole movie is a scene where Grace attempts to talk to Jake about sex – interesting, awkward, and hilarious, seeing as she’s his grandmother.
While this movie certainly does have it’s moments of humor, wit, heartfelt emotion, great lines, and superb acting, none of these factors can save this move from the train wreck that is the lack of a successfully put-together story. As I said earlier, this movie has a lot of components, which leads to the problem that is there are too many things going on, and this movie attempts to be too many things. There are multiple themes: loss, hate, grief, forgiveness, parent-child relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, and disappointment to name the simple ones. In addition, the movie also seems to be an all-in-all public service announcement against animal cruelty, war, and any other liberal topic of debate. Oh, and let’s not forget the obvious themes of peace, love, and misunderstanding.
While I can’t say this movie was necessarily a success, it was decently enjoyable for what it was. Had the somewhat over-done and preachy plot been tweaked to focus more on the character’s relationships, and had the characters themselves been a little less shallow, I would be far more likely to recommend this movie. But, instead it manages to fall in line with a slew of other run of the mill stereotypical passes at subpar-to-decent movie-making.
Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding – 5.5/10