| Hollywood icon Jane Fonda, 74, is feeling groovy playing Grace, the 70-year-old ex-hippie matriarch of Woodstock in this crowd-pleasing romantic comedy from Australian director Bruce Beresford (“Mao’s Last Dancer” and “Driving Miss Daisy”).
This feel-good movie is strictly for female audiences. It is utterly predictable in dealing with the complications inherent in loving relationships.
The movie opens with uptight, conservative New York City lawyer Diane (Oscar nominee Catherine Keener from “Capote” and “Being John Malkovich”) being informed by her husband Mark (Kyle MacLachlan) that he wants a divorce after twenty years of marriage.
Diane takes her daughter Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen from “Martha Marcy May Marlene”) and son Jake (Nat Wolff from “The Naked Brothers Band”) to her estranged mother’s farmhouse in upstate New York for a family vacation. Her kids have never met their grandmother. Diane has not spoken to her mother Grace since her wedding night.
The free-spirited Grace is an artist dabbling in painting, pottery and sculpting. She organizes a weekly protest every Saturday advocating peace and urging the government to bring the troops home. She raises chickens and howls at the full moon. Her liberal bent extends to smoking and dealing marijuana. She advocates free love, loosening up and seizing the moment.
Grace also has a knack for matchmaking. She successfully pairs off her three visiting relatives with local townsfolk. Diane embarks on a brief fling with Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from “Grey’s Anatomy”), a carpenter who sings and plays the guitar. Zoe is attracted to Cole (Chace Crawford from “Gossip Girl”), an organic butcher. Jake, an aspiring filmmaker, is always seen with a camcorder. He is shy around girls, but develops a crush on Tara (Marissa O’Donnell), a coffee shop waitress.
While the reconciliation of the mother-daughter relationship lies at the heart of the picture, the romantic possibilities in play hold your interest. The respective couples share joy and happiness before philosophical differences, behavioral problems and family secrets are revealed.
The upbeat multi-generational slice-of-life narrative bears the appropriate tagline-“Life is a journey. Family is a trip.”
It is worth the price of admission to see the gifted two-time Academy Award winner Fonda (“Coming Home” and “Klute”) grace the screen playing this free-wheeling, eccentric force of nature. She has to be the coolest grandmother ever seen on film.
This is only her third film since 1989 having previously been cast in “Monster-in-Law” and “Georgia Rule.”
Costume designer Johann Stegmeir deserves a share of the credit for Fonda’s terrific performance. His assortment of outfits worn by Fonda hearken back the Flower Power movement and the popularity of tie-dye clothing.
Another reminder of the late 60s counterculture is the school bus adorned with psychedelic artwork.
Keener and Olsen hold their own representing the second and third generation of women in the family. They both have screen charisma and carry their segments.
The male parts are poorly written and have very little depth. Morgan and Crawford are handsome beefcake studs that no woman could resist hugging and kissing.
The movie premiered at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.
It never wears out its welcome with a breezily-paced running time of 96 minutes. Opening exclusively at the Tivoli in Westport and the Glenwood @ Red Bridge.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"