Feb 27, 2015

Review: Junebug (2005)

Amy Adams had been around for some time before truly catching fire for her role in Junebug. Known to be her breakthrough performance, it netted Adams a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006. She unfortunately ended up losing to Rachel Weisz of The Constant Gardener. Even so, it's been a great decade for Amy Adams who's momentum hasn't shown any signs of slowing down yet.

In terms of Phil Morrison, he doesn't have much of a track record before or after 2005 which is a bit surprising given Junebug's popularity with the critics. Junebug happened to be his first big movie project after directing some episodes of TV series Upright Citizens Brigade. The only thing of note he's done since then is a Christmas comedy/drama called All is Bright released in 2013 with Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd that hasn't gotten much fanfare. It seems kind of interesting actually, so I got to remember to look out for it come December.

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Genre: comedy, drama
Directed by: Phil Morrison
Produced by: Mindy Goldberg, Mike S. Ryan, Mark P. Clein, etc.
Written by: Angus MacLachlan
Music by: Yo La Tengo
Running time: 106 minutes
Production company: Junebug Movie, Epoch Films
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics, Eureka Entertainment, Mongrel Media, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $1,000,000
Box office: $3,399,228 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Benjamin McKenzie, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson, Frank Hoyt Taylor, R. Keith Harris, David Kuhn, Alicia Van Couvering, Jerry Minor

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Synopsis


Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) will soon be celebrating six months of marriage with her husband George (Alessandro Nivola). She's an art dealer currently working on a potential deal with an artist from North Carolina (Frank Hoyt Taylor) which conveniently gives her the opportunity to meet George's family for the first time since they happen to live in the same area. During this visit, she uncovers a whole new side of her husband that she never knew while also realizing just how different her background is.


Review


Do I completely understand everything going on in Junebug? I'd be a liar if I said that I did and I'm totally OK with not getting everything. There's nothing like a movie that makes you think and consider what it's trying to say and Junebug is definitely one of those movies. There is a TON of stuff going on in here even if on the surface it only seems like an awkward coming home with the new wife kind of movie. Trust me, it's a lot more than that.

Angus MacLachlan's script places a lot of emphasis on its characters. I got a good feel for George's judgmental mother Peg (Celia Weston), his shy father Eugene (Scott Wilson), his resentful brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie) and his chatty sister-in-law Ashley (Amy Adams). Funnily enough, the character I understood the least was George himself. Bits and pieces become more apparent though and I think the idea here is that his wife Madeleine herself doesn't know George very well either.

Like Madeleine, I was pretty bamboozled by just how rural the Johnstens are. She does a pretty admirable job at adapting though, but miscommunication is unavoidable all the same. This results in some pretty uncomfortable situations, but Madeleine presses on anyway. Despite all the focus on family, babies and religion, she's here to secure a deal with David Wark the artist who is as talented as he is crazy. Or is he talented because he's crazy? This focus on her job of course results in a significant conflict later on.

Amy Adams is as good as advertised. She's got a handful of scenes that she absolutely steals with her wide-eyed ignorance and chatty nature. Besides that, she also astounds in a certain dramatic scene. She really is a wonderful actress and that's on full display here.

Who I also really liked in Junebug was Embeth Davidtz. Getting to use her natural South African accent, she was a lucky home run as she was a last-minute casting decision before filming began. I've always had a soft spot for her ever since her days as Ms. Honey from Matilda. Let's just say that her character in Junebug is quite different. She's maybe not a villain to you and me, but to George's family that's a bit of a different story.

Junebug ends on a really strong note, one that of course got me thinking as the rest of this movie did. It's easily the kind of movie you could watch several times and probably develop a much better idea of what exactly Phil Morrison is trying to say than I have from watching it only once. Along with some great performance and brilliant casting, Junebug deserves a lot more attention beyond Amy Adams' performance than it has received.

Rating


7.5/10