A touchy daughter and her feely mom form the emotional axis of Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, a touching, feeling, touchy-feely series of emotional encounters that generate much warmth in Bruce Beresford's balloon-light family comedy. If it were any lighter, it would float away.
Catherine Keener plays Diana, a tightly wound corporate lawyer who lives in Manhattan with her husband and teenagers. One evening before a dinner party, her world comes apart. She loads the kids - her college-bound daughter (Elizabeth Olsen) and awkward high schooler (Nat Wolff) - in the car and takes the New York Thruway to Woodstock to visit Grace (Jane Fonda), the loosey-goosey mother she hasn't seen for 20 years.
Grace alienated her conservative daughter and son-in-law by selling marijuana at their wedding. She still resides in the capital of Woodstock nation, growing pot in the basement and partaking whenever she's not leading peace marches, raising chickens, and painting landscapes. She claims that she supports herself by bartering her paintings and ceramics, but it is understood that she has a cash crop.
Loose verging on the unhinged, Fonda is a stitch in this story of reconciliation that plays like a comic version of her greatest hit, On Golden Pond. It's an unexpected pleasure to watch the screen's most self-contained actress run off at the mouth and behave like Auntie Mame in tie-dye, exhorting her daughter and grandchildren to live! Live! Live! And leading an antiwar protest with the slogan "Peace is a faith-based initiative!"
Still, the film's parts are greater than its sum. The assumption of the screenplay by Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert is that difference of principle is just a dissonant prelude to harmonic convergence.
Thus the repressed can find common ground with the libertine, the vegan with the carnivore, and, of course, the grandmother with her timid grandkids, because the first rule of family is that grandparents and grandchildren are natural allies because they have a common enemy. The narrative doesn't build; rather it sags to its foregone conclusion.
Despite this, Fonda, Olsen (the gifted younger sib of Mary-Kate and Ashley), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (as an untroubled troubadour/furniture maker attracted to the troubled Keener) radiate enough positive energy to light up a Las Vegas hotel. It's slight, but pleasurable fun.