Movie Notes: Junebug

October 20, 2006

Junebug

2 stars = 2 stars

Starring Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams
Directed by Phil Morrison

This is a film I thought I would like, but didn’t. It’s an indie-style flick, about two recently-wed urbanite art dealers Madeline and George (Embeth Davidtz and Alessandro Nivola) who travel to the sticks to hang out with George’s family, including his never-graduated from high school brother Johnny (who thinks George is an asshole) (Ben McKenzie) and his pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams).

Anyhow, initially it seems that Junebug is going to pit urban against hick and come up with some funny class-struggle scenes, but it mostly feels mopey and a bit condescending to the presumably less-intelligent down-home family. This is the heartland of America, but it’s filmed with a distant eye usually reserved for National Geographic documentaries of Papua New Guinea. Meaning, a pot-luck buffet of potato salad in saran-wrapped bowls where George has to sing a hymn is treated with a kind of under-the-microscope preciousness that is probably pretty interesting to the Blue-staters but if you think about it, it’s kind of bizarre that this should even get passing attention.

Amy Adams as Ashley deserves kudos. She has a complicated part to play, someone who isn’t very bright but isn’t supposed to be funny, and just wants good things to come from her innocence and good intentions, and can’t understand how things can go wrong. Maybe the movie would have been better told from her point of view, because the film’s biggest failing is Madeleine and George. George is so quiet, he’s practically an enigma. At key moments when I expected him to freak out (as when his brother hits him with a wrench), he doesn’t seem capable of even reacting. Madeleine likewise is a cipher. Maybe she was seducing Johnny, maybe she wasn’t. Does she really care about the outsider artist’s interests or is she just exploiting him? I stopped wondering after a certain point.

So anyhow, I think you’re getting the gist of my feelings towards this film, which I found a bit surprising since I usually like these sorts of indie films. My sentiments are captured in Junebug‘s last line. I share George’s sentiments completely.