Let’s work this review the way a food critic would work it. Let’s toss out the salad, so we can spend more time with the entree.

This is the storyline as laid out by the producers of “Peace, Love and Misunder-standing,” directed by Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy,”) and written by Joe Muszynski and Christina Mengert.

“An uptight NYC lawyer takes her two teenagers to her hippie mother’s farmhouse upstate for a family vacation. What was meant to be a weekend getaway quickly turns into a summer adventure of romance, music, family secrets and self-discovery.”

Okay, that’s pretty good. I couldn’t improve on that. It sounds like the premise for a Hallmark movie of the week, until you consider the cast.

For our investment of time, money and butter-free popcorn, we get the wonderful Catherine Keener as Diane, the uptight lawyer, and indeed she is, and she has good reason to be. Her husband (Kyle MacLachlan, who looks as constipated and befuddled as he did on “Sex In The City”) stops her as she lays out the silverware for dinner, and demands a divorce. I was thrilled with that because MacLachlan adds nothing to any role he plays. Good riddance.

So, Diane packs up her two grown kids, Zoe (a very good Elizabeth Olsen with a big career ahead of her) and Jake (a sweet Nat Wolff) and drives to Woodstock, N.Y., to see her old hippie mother for the first time in 20 years. Mother is … OMG, Jane Fonda, and she looks terrible. That’s because Jane had some work done and looks wonderful for 75, so they had to add some wrinkles. Ain’t it always the way?

Grace (Jane) is what your mother would call, a “hoot.” She still fits into Michelle Phillip’s old tie-dyed wardrobe, she wore when she was back in the 60s having a three way with Leonard Cohen. I would pay to see THAT movie.

Grace lives in an old barn of a house full of chickens and drop-ins from the 60s. In this entourage, all packed in and pickled at a moon-howling party, we get Rosanna Arquette and Joyce Van Patten, with a host of other old-timey women who still share a joint and memories. Into this pack of stoned Sallies, some masculine energy is dropped. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who lives nearby and makes furniture, is the local anglo version of Javier Bardem. He is scruffy, big shouldered, mud pie eyed and hot. We can feel the uptight Diane began to melt. Of course. There is a secret about to pop up here.

Meanwhile, daughter Zoe is falling in love with the local hottie 20-something who happens to be the town butcher. Can a vegan girl find love with the corner carnivore cutie? Just you wait and see.

Oh, yes. Son Jake, who spends the entire movie filming everything with his video camera, finds love in the woods as well. This will result in a film-ending short film at the local film festival, and it’s a lot of fun for all.

Catherine Keener continues to turn tin into silver. Enough said.

Fonda, all wrapped up in tie-dyed glamour and floating around in a haze of marijuana smoke, is delightful. She wears her hair the way Janis Joplin did just before she died, all crinkly, full of smoky gray streaks, pieces of chicken feathers and wisps of ribbon left over from Jimi Hendrik’s funeral. Jane’s face is a roadmap of wrinkles that do nothing to keep her from reminding us of the final heartbreaking scene in “On Golden Pond.”

She still has her father’s eyes, pondering pauses and slow moves that we remember. It’s a carnival of cliches she finds herself in here, but Henry had his as well, and still found a way to turn slowly to the camera and break our hearts with his piercing eyes.

“Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” is not the ideal corner for Jane to be found standing on at the end of this day, but when she turns to her camera and takes a breath before turning a silly line into a kick in the heart, we remember Gloria, in “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and Lillian in “Julia,” Sally in “Coming Home,” and the shattered, haunted Bree Daniels in “Klute.” They make movies like this at least once a year, but a Fonda comes along only twice in our lives, if we’re lucky.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: