‘Peace’ gives Jane Fonda early launch into Oscar race

Fonda2Could Oscar hopes bloom for Jane in June?

In the wake of Christopher Plummer’s supporting actor Oscar for 2011’s “Beginners,” there’s little reason that another thesp famous for work in an earlier generation, Jane Fonda, shouldn’t be in contention for a lead actress honor for this summer’s “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding.”

Fonda has the showcase role in this film, from “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Tender Mercies” director Bruce Beresford, centered on three generations of women who reunite at present-day Woodstock. The other two generations, represented by Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen, are no slouches, but the movie — which IFC Films will open in 25 markets June 8 after it premiered in September at the Toronto Film Festival — clearly belongs to Fonda.

She takes a role that risks being the worst of Woodstock hippie cliche and infuses it with reality. Whatever jokes one might make about Fonda’s liberal history, that was no easy task. “Peace” depends on Fonda being convincing despite her outward flightiness, and she succeeds.

During the film, I found myself thinking of Henry Fonda and “On Golden Pond,” which, if you can believe it, has just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Henry, famously, won his only Oscar for that film, at the age of 76.  Jane, who accepted the award because her father wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, will be 75 at next year’s Oscars.

All of this signifies to me that despite an off-season release for “Peace” and the fact that she has two previous Oscars, it wouldn’t make sense if Fonda were not part of the lead actress conversation when things heat up months from now.

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