Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding Movie Poster Image
Drug use and cliches mar unoriginal indie dramedy.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's important to be yourself and to understand who you are and what you believe in. But it's just as important to realize that other people are entitled to be who they are and that even though you may disagree with some of their beliefs, their opinions are just as valid as yours. If you approach others with an open mind, you might just learn something important, even from people you disagree with.

Positive Role Models

Grace, an aging hippie/free spirit, happily encourages everyone around her to do whatever feels good (which does include smoking pot and other things that some might find iffy). Her adult daughter is more high-strung and points out the ways that self-indulgent behavior can affect others. Eventually they find middle ground.


Two characters hit a deer while driving at night and are forced to shoot the injured animal to put it out of its misery. Some arguing.


Some flirting and kissing, and two quick shots of naked men seen from behind (while skinny-dipping and posing for a painting). One couple has sex off screen, which becomes an important topic of conversation in later scenes. An aging hippie happily recounts her past sexual exploits, while her adult daughter is less pleased with her mother's endorsement of "free love."


Occasional swearing includes "s--t," "c--k," and "damn."


The film has a strong anti-consumer message.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Just about everyone smokes pot, including teens. There are joints, roaches, pipes, bongs, and a giant hookah. One of the main characters makes her living selling pot and proudly shows off her high-tech growing operation. Some characters also drink beer or wine at parties or with meals; several smoke cigarettes. In one scene, a group of women gets smashed on tequila shots.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that that Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding is an indie dramedy about clashing values between a straightlaced New York lawyer (Catherine Keener) and her aging-hippie mother (Jane Fonda). The movie finds laughs in their conflict and seeks heart in their attempts to find common ground. There's occasional swearing (including "s--t"), some flirting and kissing, a few quick shots of nude men from behind, drinking, and smoking. But the biggest issue for most parents is likely to be the movie's drug use; almost everyone smokes pot, even the high school student. The movie makes light of Fonda's character's dope habit, even when she's arrested for dealing, in an effort to contrast her free-spirited lifestyle with that of her regimented daughter.

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What's the story?

When her husband asks for a divorce, high-strung lawyer Diane (Catherine Keener) retreats to upstate New York to visit her mom, dragging her college-student daughter, Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), and high-school son, Jake (Nat Wolff), along. The kids are excited, since they've never met their mysterious grandmother, Grace, an aging hippie who lives in Woodstock (naturally), smokes pot with abandon, practices free love, and encourages everyone around her to do whatever feels right. Grace, played with zest by Jane Fonda, is a dynamo who sweeps the kids into her orbit and encourages her daughter to let loose just a little. But the conflict between their lifestyles is just as sharp as it was at Diane's wedding, when an unfortunate marijuana-related incident led to a rift that's lasted for decades.

Is it any good?

PEACE, LOVE, AND MISUNDERSTANDING is all about culture clash, and it wastes little time trying to create a realistic reason to throw together the stiff lawyer and the flower-child grandma. There's not much more to it. Keener's Grace is underwritten, and it's never really explained why she's so uptight, while Fonda takes over every scene using every possible hippie stereotype. She protests, drives a VW Bug, practices free love, howls at the full moon (for real), and smokes pot. Lots of pot. How can they possibly find common ground?

In movies like this, it's traditional for both sides to give a little. But although Diane learns to let loose (a bit), Grace doesn't temper her behavior, even when her choices have some unsurprising blowback. In a subplot, Zoe, a strident vegan, is attracted to the local butcher (Chace Crawford) but can't get over the fact that he cuts up animal flesh for a living. She, like her mother, learns to be more accepting and becomes a better person for it. But the obvious moral -- and the cliches that make it so predictable -- make for a weak film in which a valuable lesson is reduced to convention.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding depicts drug use. Is it presented as a positive or negative thing? Are there realistic consequences?

  • Do the aging Woodstock residents seem like stereotypes or realistic characters?

  • What do you think about Grace's do-as-you-please philosophy? How do her choices impact others?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love offbeat characters

Themes & Topics

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