Review: Peace, Love & Misunderstanding


Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is a typical family drama/comedy that explores acceptance and love amidst broken, unhealthy family relationships. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? There have been a large number of films where characters are put into completely foreign surroundings to discover and find themselves, sometimes to hilarious results (Our Idiot Brother), but mostly to disastrous results.

Read on to find out where Peace, Love & Misunderstanding falls.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding
Director: Bruce Beresford
Rating: R
Release Date: June 8, 2012

Following a sudden divorce request by her husband, Diane (Catherine Keener) decides to bring her kids, Jake (Nat Wolff) and Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), to meet their grandmother, Grace (Jane Fonda), for the first time. However, unlike the conservative lawyer that Diane is, Grace is a free-spirited hippie living on a farm in Woodstock, New York. The social differences between Diane and Grace mesh and blend together as they attempt to reconnect after a 20 year “banishment” following an incident at Diane’s wedding. In the meantime, the three outsiders explore respective love interests in the suburban New York town.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is full of contrasts and counter-clashes, ranging from Grace’s outlandishly-colored hippie clothing versus Diane’s dull/muted business suits, Zoe’s psuedo-pretentious liberal agenda versus her love interest’s, Cole (Chace Crawford), job as a butcher, to Jake’s awkward insecurities versus the general freedom of expression in the town. If all of this sounds all too-familiar, that’s because it is. 

This is admittedly the first film I’ve seen Olsen in, and given how much acclaim she received for Martha Marcy May Marlene, I was excited to see how talented she really is. There are moments where she really shines, but is ultimately held back by the script boxing her into the role of the liberal college student calling blasphemy against anything that counters her own beliefs. I guess one could say that every character is pigeonholed into these established stereotypical roles of which they’re unable to escape.

Take, for example, Fonda’s role as Grace, the hippie grandmother. She serves as the complete contrast to her daughter, Diane: free-wheeling, colorful, ready and willing to smoke weed, partake in anti-war demonstrations, or paint her male friends in the nude. As with films involving self-discovery, she finds a way to bridge the divide that’s kept her estranged from Diane for the past 20 years. It’s formulaic and predictable. Diane’s character, at the same time, begins the film as an uptight businesswoman and mother facing a surprise divorce, but finds something (or someone) to re-shape her newfound acceptance of identity, represented by Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a local Woodstock citizen. What’s more, her transformation is marked by a very obvious wardrobe change from the aforementioned muted business suits to more playful, casual clothes.

Simply put, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen in similar films. If you’re looking for a light evening at the theater, you probably won’t mind the lightheartedness of the film, especially if you’ve always wondered what Morgan’s butt looks like. But if you’re tired of seeing opposing cultures clashing with one another, this film won’t do anything to change your mind.