An Evening With Jane Fonda
Film Society of Lincoln Center
June 6, 2012
Written by Frank J. Avella
Why Jane Fonda deserves
an Oscar nomination for Peace, Love & Misunderstanding…and
why she probably won’t be nominated for an
Oscar for Peace, Love & Misunderstanding…
Jane Fonda delivers one of her
most relaxed, assured and nuanced performances in
Bruce Beresford’s good but flawed film,
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding. Fonda is
the reason to see the film. Each and every frame
she is in provides the viewer with an opportunity
to observe one of the screen’s finest actresses
wholly embody a role that both satirizes her perceived
persona and, yet, promotes what she is all about
now as a human being.
Fonda has written and spoken about
the importance of reflecting on one’s past
in order to understand who we are in the present
and who we can be in our future. Grace, is someone
who lives in the present—funneled through
a 1969 era marijuana bong.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
along with Joan’s Digest recently
sponsored An Evening with Jane Fonda where
she spoke quite candidly about her life, evolution
as an actress and person, the craft of acting and
her new role as Grace, the life-force behind Peace,
Love & Misunderstanding.
In the film, conservative attorney
Diane (Catherine Keener), on the verge of a divorce
from her uptight husband (Kyle MacLachlan), takes
her kids to her mom’s home in Woodstock. These
two teens, played winningly by Elizabeth Olsen and
Nat Wolff, have never met their grandmother since
mom decided to cut Grace out of her life twenty
Grace has chickens roaming free
in her home, grows her own weed, protests the war,
frequently paints naked men and indulges in carnal
delights when the spirit moves her. She sponsors
local music festivals and, with the help of her
feminist friends, delights in an all-girl celebration
of the moon.
Fonda, herself, never had the
time to be a hippie. In the late 60s she was too
busy being Roger Vadim’s actress/wife, living
in Paris and starring in Barbarella. It
wasn’t until the early 70s that her protest
days began and she was more an activist than anything
This truth doesn’t stop
most people from believing that she was actually
a hippie and Fonda dives fully into this delicious
spoof of the tabloid notions of who she is, but
she manages to locate the humanity…the pain
of a mother who has been banished from seeing her
daughter and her grandchildren. Grace remains true
to herself, mega-flaws and all but finds that bridge
toward repairing the damage. It’s a miraculous,
mesmerizing performance by Fonda.
In a brief scene that requires
no dialogue, Fonda and Keener come to an understanding
and all we need to do is look at Fonda’s face
to know all we need to know about the years of hurt
because of her daughter’s desertion and the
deep love she feels for Diane, but also the confusion
about who her daughter has turned into, and the
desire to understand, to learn.
This also describes Fonda in the
last act of her life (her words). She has such an
intense interest to learn, to know, to understand,
to absorb. She’s like an excited child wanting
to educate herself, better herself. And it’s
in that desire that she makes those around her better
The film is a good example of
that since she enhances each moment she shares with
her fellow actors and makes the movie better than
it should be. One of the issues I have with Beresford’s
directing technique is his annoying habit of cutting
off scenes before they had a chance to breathe…to
come to some sort of conclusion. Fonda stamps each
scene with just enough emotion, making up for Beresford’s
questionable editing choices.
For all of this and for captivating
the audience, Fonda should receive her eighth Oscar
nomination. But will she? Can it happen? It’s
Jane Fonda has been nominated
for seven Academy Awards, winning twice.
In the late 60s/early 70s, she
fast became the female acting force to be reckoned
with in American cinema, in large part due to her
seminal performances in Sydney Pollack’s They
Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in 1969 and
Alan J. Pakula’s Klute in 1971. She
was nominated for both and it was widely believed
she lost for the former because of the intensely
negative feelings many had for her Vietnam War protests.
With her role as call-girl Bree Daniels in Klute,
she could not be denied and it stands as one of
the best screen performances of the 1970s.
Her anti-war activities had her
returning to the screen quite infrequently and she
turned down roles in Oscar-nommed films such as
The Exorcist, Cinderella Liberty,
Chinatown and Network.
In the late 70s, she returned
with a vengeance in Fred Zinnemann’s Julia
(1977), Hal Ashby’s Coming Home (1978)
and James Bridges’ The China Syndrome
(1979); all three garnered her Lead Actress nominations
and Coming Home won Fonda her second Oscar.
Another nomination followed in 1981 for Supporting
Actress in On Golden Pond. She lost, Katharine
Hepburn won (her fourth) and Fonda says (doing a
dead-on Hepburn), “You’ll never catch
At this point, Fonda was the most
respected American actress of her generation.
Then, of course, along came…Meryl—although
early in Meryl’s career she was often criticized
for being cold—the accent queen. It wasn’t
until the late 80s that Meryl began to emerge as
the force she still is today.
And in the 80s Fonda found her
career floundering, turning in solid performances
in problematic films like Agnes of God
and Stanley and Iris.
In 1986, she received her seventh
and final (to date) nomination for a searing, underrated
portrayal of a washed-up actress in Sidney Lumet’s
The Morning After.
Then she met Ted Turner and gave
up acting…for fifteen years. Although Fonda
insists that wasn’t the reason:
“It had nothing to do with
Ted. Ted saved me. I was really unhappy as a person.
I found it really hard to be creative when I felt
so not-good in my skin as a woman.”
Regardless of the reason, it was
too long a hiatus. Towards the end of writing her
memoirs she “was a different person,”
and felt she might “find the joy in acting
again.” She certainly did.
In 2005, post-Turner refreshed
and rejuvenated, Fonda co-starred with Jennifer
Lopez in Monster-in-Law—a smart choice
since partnering with J-Lo would introduce her to
a whole new generation of moviegoers. The film was
a box office hit, but critics weren’t kind—they
did, however, acknowledge Jane’s impressively
nasty performance. There was brief talk of a possible
nomination but without Globe recognition, it wasn’t
going to happen. Not for a critically lambasted
The lackluster Georgia Rule
gave Jane another decent role in another mediocre
Now, we have Peace, Love &
Misunderstanding which has a Rotten Tomatoes
score of 28%--which begs the question who in hell
are all these reviewers and exactly what is the
evaluation process? Not to grouse but when I applied
I was told that newyorkcool.com wasn’t ‘a
large enough outlet’ and yet there are Tomatometer
critics who write for MUCH smaller outlets. Ah,
The film scores a 45 over at the
more exclusive metacritic.
Basically, Fonda would need some
Golden Globe love for her performance to register.
Her reviews are better than good, despite the panning
of the film. Oh, and box office couldn’t hurt.
Time will tell, but in recent years—unless
you’re Judi Dench, actresses over 70 are not
nominated for Oscars (Ruby Dee, a recent exception).
Even Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine are passed
over year after year. But this is Jane Fonda! The
Meryl before Meryl.
I’m not saying Jane Fonda
deserves an eight nomination because she’s
Jane Fonda. I’m saying she deserves it because—so
far—she has given one of best performances
of the year and that should not be forgotten—regardless
of the politics in play. Sure, maybe five other,
better performances by actresses in a supporting
role will emerge. It’s possible. Again, we
At the Film Society Event, Fonda
made the announcement that she is going back to
acting school. She realizes her “instrument,”
as Lee Strasberg would call it, “needs to
be tuned up.” At 74, that is an extraordinary
step for an extraordinary actress who deserves proper
acclaim for an extraordinary performance.