Conservative bloggers clucked when lifelong lefty Jane Fonda signed up to play first lady Nancy Reagan in an upcoming film, but she's making an even bigger stretch in theaters right now. In "Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding," Fonda plays an aging hippie living in Woodstock.
Typecasting, you say? Actually, Grace is an Everest of cliches that no actress, even one as tenacious as Fonda, could conquer. With her tie-dye skirts, crystal collection, geodesic dome and endless I-was-there stories ("And then Hendrix comes on, and my water breaks!"), Grace goes beyond stereotype and well into travesty. She's such a collage of headlines that it's surprising she didn't spend the summer of '72 in Hanoi.
The caricatures don't stop with Grace, whose daughter, Diane (Catherine Keener), is a right-wing Manhattan attorney with a nerdy son, Jake (Nat Wolff), and a vegan daughter, Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen). While grooving with grandma, they instantly find love among the locals. Respectively, they'll meet Jeffrey Dean Morgan as carpenter-musician Jude (will the '60s references never cease?), newcomer Marissa O'Donnell as wallflower Tara and Chace Crawford as a cute, tough, literate butcher named Cole. None of these hastily made matches is even remotely convincing. "I can't believe you have Whitman memorized," Zoe tells Cole, speaking for all of us.
Bruce Beresford ("Driving Miss Daisy") directs without purpose or polish, and his mostly fine cast, which includes Kyle MacLachlan and Rosanna Arquette in bit parts, is wasted. "Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding" at least has Fonda, who at 74 remains luminous and lithe as a teenager. (And to think we laughed at those workout videos.) When Grace reveals that she sleeps with men half her age, it's the one thing in this movie that actually rings true.
PLOT A conservative lawyer visits her hippie mother in Woodstock. RATING R (strong language, drug use)
BOTTOM LINE Casting Fonda as an aging hippie could have been a stroke of brilliance. Instead, this comedy-drama is an endless parade of easy caricatures and exhausted '60s references.