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. Written by
It is not often that a film appears that looks like it may just be background noise for a lazy evening and turns our to be a jewel of a movie. But that is what happens when discovering PEACE, LOVE AND MISUNDERSTANDING. Written by first timers Christina Mengert and Joseph Muszynski who also are the film's producers, and directed with splendid sensitivity for character and detail by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, Bride of the Wind, Mao's Last Dance, etc), this is a story that so easily could have dropped of the edge of the cliff as a flop but instead becomes a transporting study of family, of coming of age, of second chances, and of fining self in this often absurd world in which we live. The cast, down to the most minuscule bit player, is outstanding: this film is likely to be a career boost for all involved.
Uptight obsessive compulsive lawyer Diane (Catherine Keener) lives in New York and at film's opening is told by her husband Mark that he wants a divorce. Diane decides to escape the disorganized trauma of that announcement by taking her two teenagers - geeky video camera addict and virginal Jake (Nat Wolff) and vegan daughter Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) - to visit Diane's hippy mother Grace (Jane Fonda, in a brilliant performance) whom she hasn't seen for 20 years (Grace sold Marijuana to Diane's friends at Diane's wedding and has never been forgiven): Grace lives in Woodstock, a town that has retained its hippie flavor since the 1960s. Thinking they will only stay for a couple of days the visiting fractured family ends up staying on while Diane slowly appreciates the strange and wacky but intensely felt life her mother has embraced. Diane meets Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who slowly breaks down Diane's carefully controlled existence, Zoe is attracted to the local butcher Cole (Chace Crawford, definitely a talent to watch) and despite her loathing of slaughtering animals for food she gradually discovers similarities in the tow of them, and Jake falls for Tara (Marissa O'Donnell) - his first physical experience. Stir all those ingredients, add some hilarious evening of women howling at the full moon, some surprises in character development, and town full of retro-flowerchild status and the film just soars.
One of the many reasons this film works so well is the outstanding performance by the always beautiful and gifted Jane Fonda, but Keener, Morgan, Olsen, Crawford and Wolff are also in top form. For an American comedy that leaves the viewer feeling on top of the world, this movie has it all.
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