Junebug (2005)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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> Best Films of 2006
Overall Rating 69%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,948
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Successful Carolinian George Johnsten meets Chicago art gallery owner Madeleine at an electoral benefit art auction- love at first sight. Madeleine decides to meet a Southern original artist, so George seizes the opportunity to come along and present her to his North Carolina parents Eugene and Peg, drop-out brother Johnny and his high-pregnant wife Ashley. Confronting the outsider soon opens a can of worms as emotions revive or emerge, like admiration and jealousy. --IMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: October 06, 2005
Things work a little differently in the South. People talk just a little slower; days seem longer than normal; emotions aren't easily conveyed. "Junebug" is very much about the differences between the North and the South, in everything from the attitudes and personalities of the various people represented, to the Civil War references contributed by the eccentric painter. "Junebug" is also a film about family. In this sense, it might be the most honest film about family to come around in a long time, maybe ever. These people talk just like most people talk - they don't put on heirs, they're just themselves. While watching "Junebug", I was amazed at how director Phil Morrison was able to capture all of this reality. Morrison is a true independent filmmaker, akin to Todd Solondz, Neil La Bute, or even Woody Allen. "Junebug" is the first truly independent film I have seen all year, and it drips from every single scene. There are no fades in this film. There is no slow motion. There are only cuts, some quick and some slow. Just cuts. It looks like the film might have been edited on a home computer, and it very well might have been. Not many motion pictures have the ability to make me relate to specific instances in my life, but growing up and still living in the South, "Junebug" made me remember several. This was one of the most emotionally fulfilling journeys I have taken all year long.

This family drama begins with George (Alessandro Nivola) and Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) meeting at a political fund-raiser. This early scene clues us in to the fact that both are Democrats. They "hook up" and are married a week later, without ever really getting to know one another. Six months later, Madeleine and George head down to North Carolina to meet a prospective artist (Frank Hoyt Taylor), an eccentric Southerner who paints pictures of the Civil War with computers and scrotums. Oddly enough, George's family lives only thirty minutes away and they decide to pay them a visit before heading back to Chicago. Peg (Celia Weston) is the matriarch of the household - an assertive presence who always criticizes the actions of her family. Eugene (Scott Wilson) is quite introspective and spends most of his days in silence, working in the basement. Johnny (Ben McKenzie) is made at the world and is married to Ashley (Amy Adams), his high school sweetheart who is pregnant with his child. Each family member has a different reaction to George's homecoming. Ashley greets both of them with open arms and is over zealous in her attempts to make friends with them. There is a sadness to the way she seems so wanting in her need to be loved. The climax of the film occurs in two - when Madeleine must go and save her artist from being stolen away, and when Ashley goes into labor. Most of this drama centers on Madeleine's decision to go retrieve her artist, rather than go to the hospital. The films ends, basically, just where it began.

It many ways, these were some of the most complicated characters I have seen in a film in a long while. Adding to this is the fact that nothing is really resolved with these characters. Everyone ends the film in the same manner in which they began it. We never find out why Johnny has such animosity towards the world, especially George. During a conversation with Madeleine, we learn he resents Ashley for not doing better, and he probably resents George for doing the things he always wanted to do. But, we never know that for sure. We never find out why Eugene is so silent and so introspective, almost sad, at times. We can tell, through his actions, that he loves his family. Maybe he just wanted more for them. The biggest mystery, however, was George. Once he arrives home, his attitude changes completely. While there, it is as if he changes into a completely different person. He goes to church. He sings. He smokes. Then, when they leave again, it's as if nothing new has happened whatsoever. This gives new meaning to the old phrase, "You can never go home again." I was just captivated at how this film managed to sucker me in to every scene, yet move at the kind of pace that would bore the average moviegoer to tears. There's something about honesty that is riveting.

And, even though it is becoming cliched to mention this in regards to this particular film - Amy Adams was absolutely phenomenal. The best female performance of the year, by leaps and bounds. As Ashley, she brings this warmth and innocence to the role. We can tell that she really is just as sweet and just as sincere as she seems - there is not a fake bone in her body. We wonder why she stays with Johnny, but then we see a scene with him desperately fumbling to find a VHS tape to record a show about meerkats, which happened to be Ashley's favorite animals. We see in this one action how much he cares for her - he just has too much resentment to show it properly. I will also say that this is Embeth Davidtz's best role to date. Before this film, I had forgotten all about her. I hope this film leads to many more roles to come. My personal favorites in the film were Scott Wilson as Eugene, one of the most understated performances of the year, and the always underrated Celia Weston as Peg. She is one of the most naturally gifted actresses working today, and she is always such a joy to watch on screen. There was not an untrue or uninspired performance in the film, and that helped to make it work.

In no small way, "Junebug" was a real treasure. It was one of the best motion pictures I have seen in 2005, and it's a shame it will not receive the kind of awards attention it truly deserves. Amy Adams for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress should be a lock, but it won't be. Angus MacLachlan for Best Original Screenplay should be a lock, but he won't be. This is too tiny a film to get enough recognition from the Academy, even though fans continue to discover this wonderful film every single day. "Junebug" is an experience in family relations; an experiment in subtleties; and, an experiment in life. With all of these films running around theatres about possessed college students and half naked treasure hunters, it was nice to see a film as simple as they come. It reminded me of how precious independent cinema can be when placed in the right hands. Phil Morrison embodies those hands. He is a masterful director of a masterful film.

Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg #1: Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg - added 08/09/2007, 03:10 AM
I've been waiting to see a movie like this where the story is of a real-to-life quality with the plot being just very simple and plain, yet the movie is still greatly absorbing. Everyone's acting is impeccable and just flows so naturally, as the characters themselves are so genuine too.
The character Johnny was very intriguing and had a bunch of great scenes.
Edd #2: Edd - added 04/21/2008, 03:30 PM
I couldn't stand watching this film. It was boring, too long, and it was just plain too weird for a com-dram.
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