Friday, October 19, 2012

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding: Movie Review

Real hippie characters aren't any more endearing in a dysfunctional family dramedy.

I have never been one for the hippie lifestyle, and yet “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” tries to convince its audience that free loving, loose morals and zero financial security can be better for the soul and family relations than a job, responsibility and a house in the city. Diane (Catherine Keener), single after being divorced from her husband, moves her two teenagers to Woodstock, just for the weekend, to live with her hippie mother Grace (Jane Fonda). 2011

Directed by: Bruce Beresford

Screenplay by: Joseph Muszynski, Christina Mengert

Starring: Catherine Keener, and Jane Fonda

She thinks the country will be good for them but is wary of her mother’s unorthodox ways. So was I. The film really isn’t trying to preach, which is good, but it is trying to be yet another dysfunctional family dramedy, which is not good. The weekend turns into a week and then a summer, because, surprise, Diane finds solace and romance in the Woodstock music and the quirkiness of a small town.

The hippie characters were much more real than just stereotypical caricatures probably because actual townsfolk were a majority of the bit-players. There was way more care put into the writing of the supporting characters than you would usually find in a similar Hollywood production. The “hippie-ness” of it all was less extreme, definitely toned down, but it still doesn’t mean that they can be emotive and deserving of our sympathies and empathies, let alone be the subject of a dysfunctional family dramedy (not that anybody should be).

The supporting characters that I did like were Diane’s two teenage kids, Jake (Nat Wolff) and Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen). Jake is a geeky, aspiring filmmaker, insecure and inexperienced around girls. His small coming-of-age steps seemed natural and very endearing. Zoe is a more self-assured, independent 16 year-old, but seems to be following in her grandmother’s footsteps, more than her mother’s, and one starts questioning how well she knows herself. She also has great chemistry with her love interest, Cole (Chace Crawford). Starting to become the norm, Olsen was the best of the cast.

The cast also includes Jane Fonda and the usually underrated Catherine Keener, but their selfish, grating characters with Fonda’s inconsistency and Keener’s blandness is what costs “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” a shot of at least being passable entertainment. It could have gotten another star or two if the kids were the leads.

Who Might Like This: Anybody from Woodstock, New York or other similar hippie towns; fans of dysfunctional family dramedies; people who like movies about the hippie lifestyle.