Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is so bad that it’s a small miracle the picture was made at all. Even the premise is bad: Divorcing 40-ish mother of two takes the kids to see their grandmother, Grace, whom the kids have never met. Grandma is a hippie. And Jane Fonda.
Of course, Jane Fonda as a hippie isn’t really a stretch—I know people who still thoughtlessly call her “Hanoi Jane”—but one wishes she’d choose better material if she’s only going to appear in movies roughly once per decade.
Also not a stretch of the imagination is Catherine Keener as Diane, the uptight divorcing 40-something mother. When was the last time she played someone who’s not uptight? Perhaps her role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
But lets get back to how bad this movie is. See, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding isn’t bad like a Michael Bay movie (story quality is an afterthought to the explosions, which do what they’re supposed to) or the Adam Sandler crapfest Jack and Jill, which is just a bad idea all around.
No, this movie is bad because it’s just plain lazy. The bulk of the action takes place in Woodstock, NY, and there are many, many references to the Woodstock music festival. Unfortunately, someone in this movie’s creative team (perhaps screenwriters Christina Mengert and Joseph Muszynski) decided the festival and the town are interchangeable. They’re not. One took place in Bethel, NY, and the other is the town of Woodstock. They’re roughly 60 miles apart.
What’s lazier is the story. Diane goes to Woodstock to clear her head after her husband says he wants a divorce, even though mother and daughter haven’t seen or spoken to each other in 20 years. So why does she go there? It’s unspoken, but, really, it’s so we can learn lessons (lazy).
Grace is an unrepentant hippie (lazy). Everyone—literally everyone—in the town is some kind of hippie (lazy).
But wait! There’s more! Jeffrey Dean Morgan, plays Jude and comes on gentle-strong as a love interest for Diane (lazy).
At some point we have to wonder whether all the critical acclaim heaped on Beresford for Driving Miss Daisy was a fluke was a fluke. It must be. Remember, as big a hit as it was, the guy didn’t receive an Academy Award nomination for best director. Perhaps that was because he released the Tom Selleck stinker Her Alibi in the same calendar year.
And no, Academy Award recognition doesn’t measure a film’s ultimate worth. If it did, we’d remember Oliver! more fondly than we do.
Another character, Jake, is an aspiring director and spends the bulk of his time shooting everyone he meets with a video camera. He name drops Werner Herzog and Steven Spielberg more than once. Then he cuts together his crap film, screens it at a festival and wins an award while his family cries. Even the fake movies in Peace, Love & Misunderstanding are lazy.