"Junebug" is a great movie, mainly because it is one of the few films that blends comedy and drama so well. Easily one of the best Sundance films of recent memory, you can't help but be drawn in by "Junebug"'s simple, yet alluring story, which is aided by excellent performances from Amy Adams and Ben McKenzie.
Art gallery owner Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz, Schindler's List, Matilda) glimpses a man, George Johnsten (Alessandro Nivola, Jurassic Park III), at an art auction, and it's love at first sight. The two soon marry, and after Madeleine goes to North Carolina to visit a brilliant, yet eccentric artist, David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor), they decide to make a stop at George's family's house. Here, we meet the rest of the cast; George's mom and dad (Celia Weston and Scott Wilson), his gruff and quiet younger brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie, The O.C.), and Johnny's upbeat, cute, and very pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams, The Wedding Date). What we see throughout is Ashley's immediate liking of Madeleine, an increase in the anger and frustration of Johnny, and a continued disapproval from George's parents.
The movie really draws you in to the lifestyle of a southern family, and I know this because I've lived in Florida for 17 years (not the beachy part, the country part). Those who live like the Johnsten's will completely identify with the characters, thus exploiting another charismatic directing technique from the film's director, Phil Morrison. That technique is to provide a character that the audience can identify with, and that is accomplished everywhere: the quiet father, the controlling and worrisome mother, the gruff and shadowed younger brother, the pretty boy older brother, the energetic and fun girl, and the shy, sweet, and pretty new lady. All or most of these sorts of people cross a person in everyday life, which makes them so much more of an attraction.
What really adds even more spice to the chicken, is the standout performances from the film's two youngest stars. Amy Adams stands out in every scene she is in. For the first half of the movie, which is mostly comedic, you can't help but laugh at how sweet, thoughtful, and harmlessly cute Adams portrays Ashley as. Adams deserves her Oscar nomination 100%. Ben McKenzie is a talented actor, there's no question to that. But when your only claim to fame is a teenage dramatic soap opera, you can't really brag too much. McKenzie lights up the screen as Johnny, and delivers a very believable performance as a young man who is unsure about, and probably not ready for fatherhood. As Adams takes over the first half of the movie's comedy, McKenzie takes the second half of the movie's drama into his hands.
The rest of the cast is definitely great, and it was nice to see Embeth Davidtz again (hadn't seen her since Matilda!). Alessandro Nivola definitely showed a side to his acting ability that really couldn't be seen in Jurassic Park III, and he has a bright future ahead of him as well...he reminds me of a younger Ralph Fiennes. Celia Weston and Scott Wilson, two seasoned actors of theater and film, shine in this as George's parents.
"Junebug" is a wonderful film, that has got classic written all over it. Director Phil Morrison has done a great job on this one, and the screenplay from first time writer Angus MacLachlan is top-notch. I recommend this to anyone who is ready for a relaxing movie that will definitely be a pleasure to watch.