When we think of Woodstock, we think of ’60s counterculture festivals and a free-spirited vibe. According to the upcoming feature film Peace, Love and Misunderstanding, not much has changed with the Woodstock of today. The town itself ends up playing a role as a character in the film, inspiring transformation among members of one family—some who live within the town’s boundaries, others who are visiting.

Carefree matchmaker Grace (played by Jane Fonda) is floored when her daughter Diane (Catherine Keener), an uptight lawyer from New York, shows up on her doorstep along with two adolescent grandchildren whom Grace has never met. She is delighted to have them, but there is more to her happy-go-lucky spirit than meets the eye. Fonda plays Grace beautifully, peeling the layers of the eccentric, long-haired protestor to reveal a mother who deeply yearns to identify with her daughter. Keener’s acting is also brilliant, fairly exhibiting the grief of a newly divorced woman also in pain from having a mother with whom she has difficulty connecting. While the mother-daughter relationship is unbearably strained, Diane’s children, Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) and Jake (Nat Wolff), add a humorous element to the relationship-driven film. They are thrilled by their grandmother’s aversion to normalcy and her pot-wielding, non-traditional lifestyle.

What begins as a whimsical escape to grandmother’s house quickly becomes more personal. To all the visitors’ surprise, Woodstock offers more than they anticipated. Diane’s softer side is revealed as she interacts with new love interest Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his refusal to put up with her straitlaced attitude –he even convinces her to sing onstage! Meanwhile, Zoe and Jake develop relationships of their own while subsequently dealing with their mom’s newfound freedom. Jake’s cringingly awkward teen romance with Tara (Marissa O’Donnell) serves as a mirror to the adult relationships as it represents the profound difficulty of opening up to another.

Everything seems to fall into place a little too easily – until a surprising twist shatters the hopeful progress and forces everyone to deal with a different kind of obstacle. Astute acting and charming humor shine throughout the film, illuminating the truth of human interaction and relationship. Exiting the theater, you’ll feel more peace
and love and a little less misunderstanding.

 

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