Jane Fonda in conversation with New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als. Photo by Julie Cunnah.
It proved entirely appropriate that online feminist film journal Joan’s Digest was the co-presenter of “An Evening with Jane Fonda.” An emphasis on women is very much a part of Fonda's latest film Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, a sneak preview of which made up the second half of last Wednesday's event in the Walter Reade Theater.
The film presents the experiences of three women, each of a different generation. Fonda is delightful and moving as Grace, the free-spirited grandma who grows pot and recalls the glory days of Hendrix and tie-dye. Catherine Keener plays Grace’s daughter Diane, an uptight lawyer who, despite having long resisted the loose nature of her mother, takes her kids to Grace’s Woodstock home for a weekend of escape after an abrupt divorce from her husband, and ends up developing feelings for a local musician. And finally there’s Elizabeth Olsen as Diane’s daughter Zoe, a headstrong animal rights activist who also experiences love and an expansion of her rigid ideals with a local butcher, played by Chace Crawford.
Prior to the screening, Fonda appeared onstage for a conversation with New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als. Fonda was lively and engaging throughout the half-hour chat. Her sense of humor was immediately evident; when Als mentioned the recent praise she had received in the media for her red carpet fashion sense and beauty, Fonda swiftly replied: “I fooled them again… one more year!”
Fonda spoke with great eloquence about her approach to acting. Discussing the necessary contradiction between rehearsal and freedom, Fonda likening film acting to “an intersection between technique, technology and emotions.” It's safe to stay that all three have converged countless times in her career. In addition to her distinguished cinematic career, Fonda has made a name for herself in theater, having acted in such plays as Strange Interlude and, most recently, 33 Variations. In discussing the difference between the two mediums, Fonda said: “[In theater] you have the time to drill down into the character … We don’t get that kind of time in movies … You don’t have the time to work and make discoveries.”
Fonda went on to recall several incredible moments from her life and career, like sitting next to Marilyn Monroe in Lee Strasberg’s acting classes and bringing Michael Jackson to the set of On Golden Pond (and the unlikely friendship he formed with Katharine Hepburn). Despite the extraordinary nature of her stories and their cast of characters, her tone remained generous and humble, giving the sense that she knows that she has been blessed with an extraordinarily full life and wants nothing more than to share it with everyone else.
Watch full video of our conversation with Jane Fonda below: