Give ‘Peace' a chance? Eh, no
The well-worn idea of hippies producing conservative children gets the broadest possible treatment in "Peace Love and Misunderstanding" where characters are as deep as their tie-dye.
Sixties icon Jane Fonda plays Grace, a sixties-era matriarch who lives in Woodstock, has Ken Kesey's bus (or possibly the Partridge Family's) parked in her front yard. When we meet her she's sitting at a potter's wheel, singing Simon and Garfunkel. You hope that's as obvious as the movie will get, but no — later, she talks of giving birth to her Reagan-loving daughter Diana (Catherine Keener) during the actual Woodstock concert, as Jimmy Hendrix was playing "The Star Spangled Banner."
The story has tightly wound (subtle) Diana reeling from a failed marriage (To Kyle MacLauchlan), retreating to Woodstock with her college-age kids — one played by Elizabeth Olson, the young actress who was so good last year in "Martha Marcy May Marlene."
Her reward for that performance is to play Zoe — a vegan who falls in love with the local hunk who happens to be (wait for it) the town butcher.
Okay, so "Peace Love and Misunderstanding" is not super original. Not every movie has to be. Sometimes, movies can overcome the problem by giving us resonant details that make a familiar scenario seem fresh again.
Does Bruce Beresford's movie do that? Well, no. The plot is as contrived as the characters — the shocking plot twist that is supposed to define and re-ignite the fraught mother-daughter dynamic is effectively tattooed on Jeffrey Dean Morgan's head.
And nobody's done the hard work here of making us believe the movie even on its own superficial terms. Grace and Diana, we're told, have been estranged for 20 years — a length of time that suggests a core of real bitterness. There is no rift here, however, that can't be healed by a trip through a photoshopped family album and some Grateful Dead.