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Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

The actress on the poster looks like Frances McDormand. In the film she occasionally reminds you of Faye Dunaway. It isn’t until she speaks that you recognize her as Jane Fonda. At the age of 74, in a long wig of brown hair streaked with grey, she looks great. She just doesn’t look much like Jane Fonda. (A New Yorker piece on her last year featured a photo in which her—what’s the adjective I want here?—well-maintained face was put into perspective by here bare arms, which very much looked seven decades old.)

As a rule I don’t like to spend much time or attention noting the surgical upkeep of aging actresses. But it helped me pass the time while watching Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, which is as pleasant as it is unnecessary.

Catherine Keener stars as Diane, an uptight Manhattan lawyer who, informed by her husband that they may as well get a divorce, packs her two teens into the car and heads to her mother’s house in Woodstock.

What makes this different from your usual fleeing-to-Mom trip is that she hasn’t talked to her mother since her wedding. Grace (Fonda) is an proud hippie, living in an area where she is not the exception. (Woodstock is depicted, with apparent accuracy, as a place where all that has changed since 1969 are the waistlines and hairlines.) She sells pot, holds moon-welcoming rituals, and lets chickens have the run of an otherwise lovely house that is as warm and overstuffed as her daughter’s Manhattan apartment is cold and austere.

As mother and daughter work out their differences, the kids form romances with a pair of locals, and Diane even becomes drawn to a good-humored musician-slash-carpenter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Boys meet girls and hop over a few speed bumps in the plot on the way to a happy ending that will surprise no one.

I’d love to know how Peace, Love & Misunderstanding came to be produced. The screenwriters are first-timers, the director (Bruce Beresford) talented but here clearly doing work for hire. My guess is that Fonda got her hands on the script, decided she wanted to do it and everything else tumbled into place after that. There’s nothing exactly wrong with it, and the cast (which also includes Elizabeth Olson and Kyle MacLachlan) can do a lot with a little. Still, its so familiar and ephemeral that you could well be halfway through watching it on cable next year before you realize that you’ve already seen it.

Watch the trailer for Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

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