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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cast Elevates Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Written by Kirk Baird

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is a straight-line family drama from director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies) about a soon-to-be-divorced mother of two who seeks comfort and answers from her estranged mother of 20 years. The film, new to Blu-ray and DVD, doesn’t advance beyond a fairly routine and predictable plot of struggling people who quickly find help and love in the arms of someone else. It’s Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’s excellent cast, however, that elevates the drama beyond its play-it-safe conventions.

Catherin Keener (Being John Malkovich, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) plays Diane, a tough career-focused attorney whose love deflated from her marriage years ago. When her husband (Kyle MacLachlan) drops the bomb that he wants a divorce, she tells him she’s taking their kids with her to see her estranged mother Grace (Jane Fonda), a flower child still reveling in her free-spirit days as a youth at her rural home in Woodstock, NY.

Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) is the oldest child Zoe, a student at Columbia University who is quick to pass judgment on anyone or anything that offends her rather cynical sensibilities. Nat Wolff is Jake, the nerdy high school son perpetually with a video camera in hand with aspirations of being the next Werner Herzog. Under the wise counsel and gentle prodding of Grace, life turns around for the struggling family. Diane meets a charming musician and carpenter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who helps her mellow out, Zoe meets a sweet-natured butcher (Chace Crawford) who helps her lower her defenses, and Jake meets an equally nerdy girl with a thing for artists.

Keener and Morgan have an undeniable spark and play off each other quite well, and Olsen is an actress really coming into her own. But Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is Fonda’s vehicle all the way. She owns the film from the moment the family pulls up in her front yard and finds her spinning pottery. It’s a rich role for an actress who doesn’t work as often as she should, a fun, quirky character for Fonda to dig into and exploit for some scene-stealing moments.

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