Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Jane Fonda Gets Hippie in “Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding”


Jane Fonda was sorry to miss the Toronto Film Festival premiere of her new movie, “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding.” She’s been suffering from a “persistent bug” for a few days and couldn’t fly to Toronto from Los Angeles. Too bad because Jane also missed the great reception the Bruce Beresford directed comedy had at Roy Thomson Hall. It’s nice when all the laughs are in the right place.

Fonda’s Grace plays the hippie dippy artist mother of straight arrow Diane. They haven’t seen each other in 20 years–not since Diane had Grace arrested at her wedding for selling dope to the guests. Now Diane’s husband has left her, so she brings her two kids (Elizabeth Olsen, Nat Wolff) to Grace’s artist retreat in Woodstock, New York.

This is the kind of film where you expect cliches to abound. But Beresford and the screenwriters make all the right moves. The film has a light touch as conflicts unfold and are addressed but not necessarily resolved. While Diane’s position seems like a gross overreaction to her mother, the estrangement doesn’t seem so far fetched.

Fonda is the most economical of actors, which is why she has two Oscars. Grace could have been a broad joke. But Fonda imbues her warmth and dignity. She simply lives on her own track and means no one harm. She’s a pot smoking and growing embracer of free love. What’s wrong with that?

The movie has low key charms that sneak up on the audience. Whoever gets hold of it has a shot at a Best Supporting Actress nod for Fonda. Keener is her usual best, and there are nice turns by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chace Crawford, Kyle Maclachlan, Rosanna Arquette, Joyce van Patten. Beresford brings the understatement of classics like “Tender Mercies” to the table. And the movie, shot on location in Woodstock, features locals and music by resident Levon Helm.

The producers of this film also made the current “Higher Ground” with Vera Farmiga and are setting up shop fast as quality filmmakers. They have great taste. They’re already developing another film for Fonda, and are currently shooting “Bachelorette” with James Marsden, Isla Fisher, and Kirsten Dunst.

PS Talk about misunderstandings–the Hollywood Foreign Press aka Golden Globes security wouldn’t let Beresford bring any guests into their party last night, not even the film’s screenwriters–and he and his wife were staying in the Windsor Arms. Not only that–the people who work for publicist Ken Sunshine and the HFPA told Beresford that even though his daughter was staying in the hotel, too, and had a room key, they wouldn’t allow her in either. Sponsors InStyle and Tommy Hilfiger take note. And HFPA lackey Munawar Hosain — photographer to the stars, he tells me– scooted out of sight.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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