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 Johny and his high-pregnant wife Ashley. Confronting the outsider soon opens a can of worms as emotions revive or emerge, like admiration and jealousy.


Phil Morrison

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by williamwolfe 9 /10

An excellent study of characters with a strong sense of place.

A very intelligent script, with direction that does it justice. Rather than spelling out exactly what we're supposed to be thinking and feeling at every moment, the filmmakers respect the audience's ability to infer meaning from the mood and tone, from the light in a frame or the ambient noise of a scene (or, for that matter, from the complete silence in which we occasionally are allowed to contemplate the house and small town where the story is set). As for the actors, they must have been thrilled to have the chance to play such complex, well-rounded characters, each of them at times being fine and even something like noble, at other times frustrating and perhaps even cruel. Just like real people, in other words. Amy Adams deserves the praise she's received for a role that could have easily been a caricature, but I'd like to also mention Embeth Davidtz for her precise and empathetic work in another part that might have easily been done in a hackneyed way.

All through this film, there are moments where we fear that its makers are going to settle for the cliché, but they never do. By the end, we feel that we've learned a great deal about the characters and the community which produced them, and we also sense that we'll never fully grasp all of their mysteries and contradictions. Very fine work from everyone involved.

Reviewed by willden21 10 /10

Poetic and charming little film about culture cross and family ties

Some films do not need to tie in every little plot detail in order to make for a more true to life form. Not all families discuss their problems or their angst openly. Most of the time you have to decipher them through little nuanced non-verbal symbols. Junebug does it perfectly.

At the base the plot follows newlyweds on their trek to NC from Chicago as the wife, Madeline, goes to close a deal with an eccentric southern painter. While there they decide to stop in and see her husband, George's family, who comes form NC originally. He has tried to separate himself from that culture and his family altogether. He has been married for six months and his family were not invited to the wedding, and his brother holds strong feelings of jealousy against him. It seems ho-hum form the plot synopsis, but then comes Amy Adams as the brother, Johnathan's wife and very pregnant Ashley.

Amy Adams is absolutely amazing. She brings a charm and wit to this picture when it seems like it is a bit dreary. Her heartwarming turn as an optimistic and young mother to be with a heart of southern gold is achingly warm and sincere. She alone makes the film a must see as she can force the audience from laughter to tears with the flip of a dime.

The direction is poetic and the cinematography allows for an unbelievably laid back southern tone. Nothing about this film is rushed and that makes it so wonderful to behold. Seeing how a family can generally and truly love each other inside, and because of cultural and societal norms strive to find ways to show love and respect for each other is achingly sincere. Sometimes you as the audience scream for them to communicate, especially the brothers as their strife is never discussed or resolved just tolerated.

Overall this film is a great cultural study that goes beyond stereotype to show the love and respect the writer and director have for the material and the people of North Carolina. This is a truly warm and comforting piece of southern pleasure that shines in a pool of darkness that is Sundance 2005.

Reviewed by PizzicatoFishCrouch 8 /10

Amy Adams stands out in a low-key, insightful character piece.

When Art dealer Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz, never better) travels to the South meet an Artist about his weird drawings, she decides to visit her husband's family whilst she's at it. He hasn't been in correspondence with them for over three years, and why that is is left unrevealed. She meets them – her mother in law (Celia Weston), father in law (Scott Wilson), brother in law (Benjamin Mckenzie), and his perky, pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams). Only Ashley extends a warm welcome, as everyone else pronounces Madeleine too clever, too pretty and too successful to be considered family. Her visit brings some home truths that the family had been putting off. Or, waiting for someone to blame on.

There is something about Junebug that will surprise everyone. It's not the weird opening sequence, where some men randomly shout into space. It's not the surprise of seeing Schindler's List's Embeth Davitz finally get a film role that she deserves. No, it is that you are actually impressed by the acting from The O.C.'s Benjamin Mckenzie (shortened to "Ben" here). As Johnny, he is a definite sourpuss, rude, inattentive to his loving wife, but perhaps, as the film hints, just using his rude exterior to hide a feeling of failure inside. Ben Mackenzie makes his character surprisingly well layered, revelling in the quietly sad scenes – he tries to tape a show about meercats for his wife but can't, and ends up taking it out on her. As his very different brother, Alessandro Nivola is as good, in his unaffected, cheerfulness. Embeth Davidtz shines too, in a different role as Madeleine, a woman trying constantly to make a good impression, but always failing. Her character is given extra depth during her many scenes during Amy Adams, especially in their snug little session over her nails. But the film belongs to Amy Adams, the actress that brought the film out of obscurity with her Oscar nomination. In Ashley, we find liveliness, humour and a soul not to be put out easily. Her love for her under-achieving husband is touching and each time he knocks her back, she fights back playfully, covering up her own insecurities, which are all revealed in her tragic hospital scene. It was a performance that could have easily been annoying or repetitive, but Ashley's spirit is so free, Adams' performance perfectly heartfelt.

Not much happens plot-wise, but Junebug is one of those films that are all the better for it. Director Phil Morrison has expertly created a story, with real characters, out of the petty everyday things. Although scenes with the Artist feel a little underdone, though they also play a part in showing the importance of family. Madeleine's visit proves to be unsuccessful not only because she is disliked by her husband's family, but because her actions clumsily reveal things about them, things that they'd rather not admit to. That Junebug never properly reaches a conclusion merely adds to the film's sophistication, but on my part, I probably would have liked to see what happens if Madeline and George went back a year later. Because though Ashley had big dreams, the sad fact is that they probably all would have gone unfulfilled. Everyone has aspirations, and some people can stand in the way of others.


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