Not long into Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, Elizabeth Olsen’s character, Zoe, has an epiphany. Sitting on a porch swing outside her grandmother’s house in Woodstock as a pot-laden party bustles around her, talking to a middle-aged black woman who’s dressed in African garb, she opines with great authority—as college freshmen are wont to do—on a very abstract concept with the conviction that she is the first person on earth to properly understand it. The fragmentation of society, she says, has made interpersonal harmony impossible. The woman corrects her: Yes, fragmentation has complicated things, but “only in recognizing the beauty of fragmentation…” Zoe cuts in—as college freshmen are also wont to do—finishing the woman’s thought, “can we begin to transcend it!”
It’s a moment that encapsulates Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, a humane, mostly successful chronicle of three generations of women (played by Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, and Olsen) struggling to understand one another after years of familial fragmentation. Written by Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert and directed by Bruce Beresford, its message about intergenerational empathy, and about learning from the failures and successes of one’s foremothers, offers a refreshingly thoughtful take on the challenge of being a young feminist.
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