‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


There’s spoof that works and there’s caricature that depends on stereotype – and Bruce Beresford’s “Peace, Love & Misunderstanding” is witless caricature.

Watching it makes you wonder what its creators saw in the script by Joseph Muszynski and Christine Mengert. In the world it creates, the town of Woodstock, NY, and the surrounding environs are permanently trapped in a 1969 time warp, one in which everyone still wears tie-dye and smokes weed.

That certainly describes Grace (Jane Fonda), first seen working clay on a potter’s wheel while singing Simon and Garfunkel. She is discovered there by her daughter Diane (Catherine Keener), with whom she hasn’t spoken in 30 years. Mom is a hippie; daughter ran away to New York and joined the establishment as a lawyer, embracing conservative politics as well.

But when her husband (Kyle MacLachlan) announces that he wants a divorce, she takes their two teens (Elizabeth Olsen and Nat Wolff) to visit the grandmother they’ve never met. They might as well be stepping into the Wayback Machine and setting the date for “Extra Groovy.”

Grace’s Woodstock is a place where the Grateful Dead are always on the radio and Grandma tells stories about sleeping with Leonard Cohen (while others whisper about the night she spent with Bob Dylan). Grace just wants to reestablish ties with Diane, to get to know her grandchildren so she won’t be so lonely.

Diane, however, still holds a grudge: Grace sold pot to her friends at her wedding. Grace has her own long-standing beef: Diane had her arrested. Now it’s time for everyone to join hands and reconnect the way families are meant to.

But everything in this film is so on-the-nose that it turns into the place where subtlety goes to die.

This review continues on my website.

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