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  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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.

    B+
  • 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.
  • Since I grew up in the South, this movie grabbed me from the start and wouldn't let go. The message that you can't go home again is universal, but the home to which the main character cannot return is rich with well-defined and believable characters.

    George (Alessandro Nivola), a man from North Carolina, has moved to Chicago and married Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz), a sophisticated art gallery owner. She learns from her scouts of an undiscovered primitive artist who lives near George's family. They take this opportunity to drive to North Carolina where Madeleine meets her husband's family for the first time. George's family consists of a strong-willed mother (Celia Weston), a loving but extremely quiet father (Scott Wilson), a brooding ne'er-do-well younger brother (Benjamin McKenzie), and a perky, not-so-bright, golden hearted sister-in-law (Amy Adams).

    On the surface, nothing separates this film from hundreds of others with the same basic plot line - be they comedies or dramas. What gives it a five star rating is its ability to depict a depth of character and a location too rarely seen in small films.

    I would not classify this film as a comedy/drama. Because I hail from the South, the "comedy" that most critics see in the characters and situations appear just as normal occurrences to me. Of course - as in life - there are moments of humor, but what takes place amongst the main characters of this film cannot in any way be considered comedy. This is sad tale of the inability of those who genuinely love and respect each other to communicate those feelings.

    Even though most of the action revolves around the family, I should mention the artist (Frank Hoyt Taylor). This man is a real "character" in every sense of the word. He is a man of apparently limited mental ability who must have been struck in the head early on by a Bible and a huge phallus. You really have to see the work of the artist in order to understand the previous statement. As a matter of fact, his paintings might realistically be considered another character in the film.

    The extras on the DVD added greatly to my enjoyment of this movie. The features about the making of it were short but informative, but I liked the deleted scenes even more. I usually can see why scenes have been cut from a film, but some of those deleted from Junebug add powerfully to understanding the characters - especially the mother and father. It's worth your time to view these scenes.

    No matter whether you view Junebug as a comedy/drama or as a sad, almost tragic drama, you'll be rewarded with an insightful and entertaining tale.
  • acsntn2 May 2005
    Phil Morrison has created a film that is among the best I've seen so far in 2005. He has taken a simple country mouse-city mouse tale and given it cosmic implications. It is the story of everyone who grew up in the boonies and then gone on to make it big in the big city. It beautifully portrays the embarrassment you feel about taking a worldly spouse back to your small hometown and its pettiness; the small-mindedness and envy of the siblings who never left town or made good; the reinvention of one's self when one moves to a big metropolis like Chicago. I did NOT feel the Bible Belt North Carolinians were stereotyped, as some viewers have remarked; I felt they were all portrayed as real people who simply had a tough time articulating their feelings, and who were just SIMPLE people...church-goers, family people who have no complexity of emotions or doubts, like city people are wont to have. The actress who played the sister-in-law was brilliant, funny and totally believable; the mother was the next Gena Rowlands; Alessandro Nivola and the girlfriend were extremely appealing ciphers (which they were supposed to be); and the unrestrained horror of their having to return to this small Southern town was so palpable, that it made watching the film very uncomfortable at times (especially if a viewer's own life resembles that of the main characters'). Deliberately underwritten, beautifully paced, it is one to remember, savor, and wind up at the Festivals. Bravo!
  • "Junebug" is a ruefully sweet, clear-eyed take on the going home genre that usually takes the form of prodigal child returning due to a funeral or serious illness with guilt hanging in the air until it ignites an explosion.

    Instead, debut writer Angus MacLachlan has brought "George" home to North Carolina as a coincidence of his new wife's job and life has gone on without him and will continue when he's gone again.

    Debut director Phil Morrison does a lovely job of visually establishing how each person in the family has staked out their physical space and roles within the family, even as sounds and light uncomfortably carry through the walls and beyond the rooms. I haven't seen every inch of a normal house used as a movie setting so intensively since "The Brothers McMullen," complete with blowing up an air mattress in the nursery.

    Those scenes contrast with how different the family members are outside that house, such as the sullen, angry brother (Benjamin McKenzie) perking up comfortably with his fellow warehouse workers and "George" easily fitting back into a church service.

    While the usual is to have the spouse's estranged family be colorfully ethnic or straight-laced WASP as a comic contrast, a la the "Meet the Fockers" mode, here they are complicated rural folk and are not condescended to, even as no good deed goes unpunished. Both sides receive their share of mockery and sympathy from the story; everyone's hypocrisy and humanity are revealed and at least two scenes bring tears to the eyes, one touching and the other sad.

    While everyone is speaking English, the miscommunications abound, though it is a bit heavy-handed to have the English-bred wife coach the brother on "Huckleberry Finn," let alone her bizarre negotiations with a probably crazy local artist. Each either takes a comment too literally or misinterprets passive aggressive silences; what people don't say comes to be more important than what they do say, as even Amy Adams' wonderfully chatty character is warm-heartedly mature and caring.

    The big, annoying weakness of the film, and keeps it from being a satisfying film, is the vague character of the prodigal son. While it seems that his older, folk art collecting wife probably lusted after him at first sight because he was the first cute straight guy who walked into her gallery (and I assume there is some significance that he buys the painting that doesn't make him happy), their quickie marriage seem to be based only on newlywed randiness, as everything seems to turn them on. Taking after his father busy woodworking away in the basement, he pretty much sloths out in the house or car, so it is confusing hypocrisy when he suddenly steps up to the plate in an emergency, accuses his wife of not putting family first and then bails on the follow up.

    Alessandro Nivola well portrays a literal golden boy who is, of course, his mother's heart's delight and in her eyes can do no wrong (even he acknowledges that his new wife is bound to discover his faults), though people who have different positions in their families may interpret the sibling behaviors in different ways. But the film only shows us how people react to him and very little about him other than his casual sense of entitlement, though the mostly silent guy to guy communication is realistic.

    Other than one superbly beautiful hymn sung by Nivola (he also sang well as rock star in "Laurel Canyon"), the soundtrack does not take the T. Bone Burnett traditional songs approach, but instead has a score by Hoboken, NJ's own Yo La Tengo that doesn't take sides between the country or the big city.
  • Junebug Reviewed by Sam Osborn of www.samseescinema.com

    Rating: 3.5 out of 4

    There's a magic to Junebug that's nearly impossible to describe with words. To explain it literally would be to describe a slow, mundane, and worthless story. But, of course, there's much more to Junebug than a story that's slow, mundane and worthless. Iconic independent director Phil Morrison's film takes a patient and immersive look at small town life. There's a profound harmony at work between the characters that, from my experience with small town family in relatives' homes, seems to be true to reality. All at once each character is happy and unhappy with their situation and with everyone surrounding them. There's pain, but within the pain is deep-rooted happiness and content. And when a foreigner enters the home as new family, we the audience are meant to take the foreigner's perspective.

    After meeting George (Alessandro Nivola) at her art gallery's auction, Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) finds herself married to the man after little over a week. Months later she travels into a rural suburbia of South Carolina to meet with the peculiar and absurdly profound artist David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor), and also to meet for the first time her new family. Unfamiliar with the family's southern lifestyle, she enters the house with the open mind unique only to artists. Immediately embraced by the lonely Ashley (Amy Adams), whose relationship to Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie) has yielded a seemingly unhappy pregnancy and lonely marriage, Madeleine is equally repelled by the mother and leader of the household, Peg (Celia Weston). Each couple (the parents, Ashley and Johnny, and Madeleine and George) sleeps in a separate room, divided only by paper thin walls that do little to contain sound, making nights into festivals of eavesdropping. The unborn baby, Junebug, has a room all to herself, seeming to hold all hope that is left for happiness in the family.

    In most films where a foreigner enters a deep-rooted household, the story usually loses itself with the dramatic changes the foreigner brings. But Phil Morrison thankfully avoids this cliché and instead lets our foreigner simply observe. There's actually a sequence dedicated entirely to the observation of each room in the home, where we, like the foreigner, are meant to find all the charming nuances of the house's decoration. Meticulous details are fully realized, with the placement of the cigarettes, the oddly shaped and colored lampshades, the material of the couches, and every tiny element of this lifestyle that may be new to all us "city folk." The foreigner actually has as little power over the family as the audience does. Instead of her acting as the catalyst for the family's change, the title character, Junebug, who's kicking and growing within Ashley's stomach holds this power. It's an affective storytelling method that allows us to connect with the foreigner, Madeleine, and consequently, find ourselves immersed further into Junebug's intimate tale.

    In a story as quiet and intimate as Junebug, it's imperative that body language plays as much a role as dialogue. The cast must exude emotions past words and extend their skills to inhabit their characters completely. Each actor achieves this rare performance, particularly Amy Adams and Benjamin McKenzie, playing Ashley and Johnny. Their marriage has a unique understanding to it that's difficult for the audience to grasp until the end. But when we realize their situation, the nuances of their performances are blissfully revealed.

    Conventional laws of cinema rarely allow small town life to be realistically portrayed. The calm, resonating harmony that resides in the lifestyle doesn't offer much in the way of excitement. I suppose it requires the confidence of an independent distributor and the eye and pen of a wonderful director and screenwriter. Phil Morrison and Angus MacLachlan's collaboration here with Junebug offers up this unique portrait with nothing but extreme and satisfying clarity.

    -Sam Osborn of www.samseescinema.com
  • I've enjoyed reading a few of the "loved it" ratings and a few of the 'hated it" ratings of movies I've seen recently...and find myself able to agree with aspects of both. The "haters" here complain this movie is slow, plot less and stereotypes Southerners. Some of that is true...this is definitely a character study, slice-of-life, indie film. Some viewers look forward to that, and are pleased when everything including the kitchen sink is not forced into a script.

    The strength of this film is the interface between characters. I found them quirkily individual enough to be believable. Amy Adams positively inhabits the role of a strong, faithful, but childish, young mother, and her interactions with an intellectual, worldly, professional sister-in-law are touching, and funny. The interactions between the controlling Southern mother with her silent but wise husband and her redneck son are credible and well enough written. Also, there is a somewhat crazy, but highly inspired visionary artist....and that is a frightening and accurate portrayal.

    Unfortunately, there are character inconsistencies, and the film does seem to linger in the sadder aspects of the story more than I would've liked, especially for a movie whose comic bits were so strongly done. It is not a broad comedy, but an investigation of goals and faith done through a brilliant cast who make you chuckle. Afterwards, the humor and heartache portrayed by Amy Adams' character is so wonderfully written and acted, I wished for a whole film just about her.
  • Greetings again from the darkness. Director Phil Morrison and Writer Angus MacLachlan collaborated on "Tater Tomater", which was featured at 1990's Sundance Festival. Together again, they have created a nice home-spun tapestry of family relationships. Despite its seemingly bizarre group of characters, we find ourselves easily relating to the difficulties in understanding and communicating with those in our family - those who should be most like us.

    The filmmakers have assembled a cast of mostly veteran actors, but no Hollywood "stars". The most recognizable is Benjamin McKenzie ("The O.C.") who plays the simmering quiet little brother whose wife, played brilliantly by Amy Adams, is with child. Others include Embeth Davidtz as the wife of prodigal son George (Alessandro Nivola, who played Pollux Troy in the underrated "Face/Off"); an electric Frank Hoyt Taylor as the off-center civil war artist David Wark; and veterans Celia Weston and Scott Wilson as the parents of the feuding boys. As a point of interest look for Saturday Night Live alum Victoria Jackson as one of the nurses.

    Although the film's heart and soul is the theme of family and the stress it creates, while somehow producing the draw that cannot be ignored, it also does a really wonderful job of capturing the spirit of southern small time living. At the center of all of this is Amy Adams, who literally steals the film as the eternally optimistic and determined "firecracker" Ashley. Her performance is outstanding, multi-layered, thought-provoking and genuine. Kind of doubt that this film will receive the necessary attention to have her nominated for an Academy Award, but she deserves one.

    This is a necessarily slow-moving film that can be uncomfortable to watch, while at the same time causing you to smile, laugh and even tear up.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    None of the first 20 user reviews properly understood this movie.

    Critical to deducing out what's going on in the plot is, of course, understanding why the movie is titled as it is ... Junebug. A Junebug appears for a very, short time in the middle of summer, flits around above the grass, reproduces, and then disappears until next year. It's just concerned with it's own life, finding a mate and having sex.

    The two visitors, George and Madeline, are Junebugs. They pop up in the middle of Junebug season in North Carolina to see George's family for a brief visit, primarily not to see the relatives, but for Madeline to sign up a new painter for her art gallery. They are just like the temporary insect visitors.

    The fascinating element is that, at first, Madeline and George appear to be the one's who have it together emotionally speaking. They appear to both express how they feel without problems, to be the same on the surface as they are underneath, i.e. their real personalities seem to be expressed openly.

    Whereas, when we meet George's family and friends and neighbours in N.C. they seem to be the weirdest bunch of suppressed individuals you could possibly meet! However, as the movie progresses, you start to realize, in the most wonderfully understated way, that the opposite is actually the case.

    Slowly but surely, you begin to understand that it is the North Carolinian family and friends who know and understand each other on a level, and with a true depth, that George and Madeline could only wish for. Some examples? Both George and Madeline smoke cigarettes, but both keep it a secret from each other. A very basic element of both their lives is a secret.

    Madeline doesn't even know that George likes loads of mayonnaise on his sandwiches, and that he likes to play road games in the car, and that he cheats in the games.

    George doesn't realize that Madeline isn't as bound up in her career as an art dealer as he suspects, instead she becomes emotionally involved in his family's issues and problems. He misunderstands this during the scene in the hospital where he tells her over the phone that "family is important". In fact, she is more aware of this than he is.

    During this last scene in the car where they are returning to their Northern city life, it is George who says, Hey, I'm glad to be out of there. Yet it is Madeline who has been more deeply changed and affected by the events she has witnessed among George's family.

    It is they who turn out to be the Junebugs, involved in George's family life for a brief short time, and they will probably return the next year for another fleeting, flitting visit. Instead, it is the family, who seemed so out of touch with each other initially, who turn out to be the ones with the on-going commitment to each other, through good and bad, despite their flaws and problems. The family members are the ones who really understand and communicate with each other on a level that George wants to avoid by leaving again, and although Madeline has realized some of this internally, she is also leaving to return to her all-consuming career. They both choose to leave real communication behind in N.C. with George's family.

    There are so many "hidden" aspects that speak of this underlying plot throughout the movie, that I can't mention them all here. But some are George and Madeline's sex life which is graphically portrayed. It seems that they are very much like the Junebugs, here to have sex and procreate, and then come back to do the same next year. That's all they seem to do, true communication is out the window. Another is when Madeline finds Eugene's screwdriver hidden under some furniture, just before she is about to leave and go home. It's as if she has finally discovered something about what Eugene is looking for in his life, but chooses to flit off after she discovers it. I could go on, including the very brief scene of the Junebugs flitting above the grass in the garden, but I'll let you find the others yourself.

    Happy flitting! A true 9 out of 10 movie. Very enjoyable and profound.
  • jotix10017 September 2005
    "Junebug" is one of the best independent movies that has been released recently. Phil Morrison, the director, is clearly a new voice in the cinema to be reckoned with. His immensely satisfying "Junebug" has the power to make the viewer gets absorbed into the drama he presents to his audience. Based on a screen play by Angus MacLachlan, the film is a pleasant surprise.

    If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you should stop reading here.

    At the start of the film, we are taken to Madeleine's gallery in Chicago where an art auction is taking place. The lovely Madeleine is seen behind the scenes, when she suddenly happens to catch sight of George, who happens to be at the event. We are aware of Madeleine's lust for the handsome George, and as fate would have it, they get married.

    When Madeleine decides to go to visit one eccentric painter in North Carolina, a visit to George's family is in order. The contrast between the worldly Madeleine and her new in-laws is something we realize right away. The mother, Peg, is a controlling woman who presides over the big household. She is weary of strangers, as she perceives Madeleine to be. The father, Eugene, is a taciturn man who clearly wants to stay away from his wife, hiding in the basement, where he carves animal figures that we never get to see. Johnny, the other son, seems to be resentful of his brother for having left home. His wife Ashley, is the only person who seems to be happy, or at least, adjusted to her situation and surroundings.

    The basic trouble with this family is that they don't communicate. Nothing is ever heard about what has made them grow apart. There is no warmth whatsoever from Peg toward anyone at all. In fact, for being this a Christian family, they exhibit no kindness toward Madeleine, who tries to connect with them, to no avail. Johnny misreads his new sister-in-law's kindness with sexuality, which is clearly not the case. It's only Ashley, the simple girl with a heart of gold who seems to be having some semblance being well adjusted in spite of the coldness of her new home.

    Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz, who play Amy and Madeleine, respectively, give amazing portrayals of these two opposite women. Ms. Adams is one of the best things in the film because she hasn't been touched by whatever is making the rest of the family so miserable. Embeth Davidtz, one of the best young actresses working in film and in the theater these days gives a graceful account of Madeleine, a woman of a different background who is accepting and wants to be accepted by her new family.

    The rest of the cast is well balanced. Benjamin McKenzie is seen as the frustrated Johnny, who is clearly an unhappy man living with his family. Alessandro Nivola has a great moment when he is asked to sing a hymn at a church gathering. Celia Weston makes Peg, into a mystery, as we can't conceive her reaction toward the woman who married George and can't accept her. Scott Wilson is the father.

    "Junebug" is a film that will stay with the viewer for quite a long time after it's finished. Mr. Morrison makes us get involved in the situation he is presenting for us. Clearly, not a film for the great masses, but it will gratify fans of this type of indie that shows a director who clearly has things under control and is not afraid to get the viewer involved in the story.
  • After viewing "Junebug" for the second time, I have concluded that the film contains a darker theme just beneath the surface of light-hearted humor and gentle parody. Throughout the film, there are occasional shots of empty rooms, silent streets and dark woods that are at odds with the message conveyed by the action. Generally, we are treated to contrasting images: a room filled with people is followed by a shot of the same room, empty and silent. A church parking lot devoid of people followed by the same scene filled with noise and celebration. The dark woods beyond the deck appear sinister. I got the distinct feeling that the filmmaker wished to suggest that the laughter and interaction of this family was a fragile veneer. Just beneath the surface was a terrible emptiness that could not be disguised by gaudy art, wood paneling and the celebration of family rituals. Although the majority of this wonderful film gave a warm and affectionate treatment of this Southern family, these brief images of silence and emptiness are like teasing glimpses of "the skull beneath the flesh." Did anyone else get the same reaction?
  • What struck me most about this (amazing)movie was the characters' well-roundedness. George's family and residents of NC are completely believable, fleshed-out, and never just types. Having lived in the piedmont of NC for 11 years (and now living in Chicago) I felt like I was transplanted back with George and Madeleine. The Southern characters' rural way of life was balanced with complexity and the capacity for reflection.

    As for the urban characters, they were just as whole and did not fall into urban stereotypes of being hard or snooty. More importantly, Madeleine was not condescending, but as a very well-traveled person would, she understood that they were real people despite their differences.

    The humanity of all the characters does not seem careful or imposed (which could have resulted in a bland, politically-correct love-fest); the characters have a great deal of energy between them as they encounter differences and deal with them.
  • June Bug was autobiographical for me, as I grew up within "hollerin" distance of Pilot Mountain, in King, just down the road from the movie's purported location of Pinnacle. The movie evoked many summers ago when the June bugs hovered over the dandelions embedded in the grass of my front yard, and as a young boy I was fascinated by these green creatures who seemed to come from nowhere, and were gone just as suddenly, as the summer waned. I moved away from North Carolina just as "George" did, and have lived away since that time. This movie evokes perfectly the dichotomy of the soul of those of us who are natives of the area. My family was almost exactly like the one in the movie, unable to talk about matters of the heart, struggling to show our love for each other, and generally failing just as the family in the movie fails in so many ways. Yet George at one point remarks to his Chicago wife "family is important" and that statement is the most powerful in the movie. Although I moved away from North Carolina, my heart and my soul have never left that culture, as fractured as it is. I have been drawn back there year after year, never tiring of the view of Pilot Mountain, never being comfortable with my family there, but loving them all the same.

    By all means see this movie, because in the emotions it evokes I suspect you will see the fractures in your soul as well......
  • Like good poetry, in Junebug I believe the viewers are invited to bring their own lives and experience to the back story, the subtext. The ambiguity of family and the intricacies of relationships in this film encourage the movie goer to rethink the confused and sometimes absurd moments we experience while finding ways to fit in- or not. I thought the film was very funny at times-not cheap funny- but the goofy, oops, hoof-in-mouth moments when we try too hard or miss the cues. (The look on Madeline's face in the screwdriver conversation!) This movie left so much to think about. That is film as art- when the conversation with it continues in our heads.
  • Do we judge the "other". May we ? Can there be a objective impression of a family so drawn into closeness that is almost breathtaking? If we judge it is not the director's fault. He just rolls the camera and let us think we are watching a run of the mill family in NC. Do we recognize the drama? Is there a drama ? What will we call it? If we judge family life it is drawn from our own experience; or what we have seen from others friends etc. Let me end with saying that reality is often not what it seems to be. But by understanding we are able to come a bit closer to the vicissitudes of life.

    Good day and good luck.
  • highphigh6 September 2006
    I don't know that I would have intentionally gone to see June Bug, but I came across it while flipping channels and was pleased to discover what a rich surprise this movie really is.

    The film takes place in North Carolina, and the slowness of life there, and the regional philosophies in general, influence the mood considerably - it doesn't seem like it was hot when they filmed this, but there's a muggy overtone despite the lack of actual humidity. And as you ride along w/ Madeleine, and feel the contrast of her "worldly" experience in this provincial environment, you'll connect w/ these Southern characters, and at the same time you'll struggle w/ this place, and particularities of their personalities.

    And the personalities are the real rave of the film, and the acting that brings those characters to you, and the depth of those parts. As the plot develops, you'll write off some characters, only to have them grow on you as you learn more. You'll love someone and then see some aspect of them that breaks your vision of who they are. None of these players are especially famous, but all play their parts so perfectly. Madeline, and her persistent sunniness is the spotlight that allows you to truly see the other roles. And Amy Adams portrayal of Ashley is particularly incredible... it's not that the character comes across as totally likable, it's that she's so real, and so rich, flaws and all. She's brilliantly attractive and repulsive at the same time... and that may be a fair metaphor for the film in general. There's a push and pull here that is quite compelling and hard to forget.

    This movie is off the beaten path, in it's topic and it's psychology. It is sticking w/ me like a dream before waking... leaving me with w/ dramatically intense images that keep the film's quiet mood at play in my mind.

    I don't think that George Johnsten's North Carolina home is a place I'd actually like to visit, but having been there, I miss it now.

    Strange, simple film, but absolutely worth seeing.
  • In some ways, poor southerners are the chavs of America: the one social group whom it's politically acceptable to mock. And at first, 'Junebug', a film about a newly (and quickly) married Chicago girl visiting her new husband's southern parents, appears to be just another opportunity to laugh at the southerners, although (inexeplicably) his half-witted family appear anything but poor. In fact, the movie is soon pointing fingers in both directions, and developing into a fairly subtle and complex movie about the nature of love and family; but it's foundation remains problematic and clichéd ground, however sensitively the movie builds on it. One might see elements of Mike Leigh's work in this film, transported of course to an American setting; but I generally find it easier to believe in Leigh's dysfunctional families. Still, there's a deceptive complexity to this work, even if that isn't quite enough to make it good.
  • Being a former "Upright Citizens Brigade" director, Phil Morrison fares much better here than Peyton Reed did with The Break-Up. Morrison shows true heart here with a lot going on as city life clashes with the country. He deftly handles the characters' interactions with each other and the differences that both worlds have on issues such as trust. Whereas Madeleine, a world traveler and educated, successful woman, can have all the trust in the world for her husband's southern family and artist she is courting on business, they see her as someone wanting something. They can't trust her because she is an outsider; her kindness must be masking some ulterior motive. Embeth Davidtz, as Madeleine, portrays this conflict perfectly; she is a strong person and outgoing to a fault, however, her touchy-feely attitude is construed as being sexual, having a sense of entitlement and betterment to her lesser, and a devil in sheeps clothing mantra. Her husband George, played with nice duality between old and new world attitudes by Alessandro Nivola, knows she is just a nice, caring woman, but his family is very conservative and not easily swayed to open themselves to strangers.

    Even though there is not much in the way of plot, newly married couple go down to the groom's family's house while the bride tries to secure a lucrative art deal with a painter. While there, each side turns the other's life upside down, causing a need for change and compromise that just isn't as possible as one might think; Chicago and North Carolina are very far apart. This story is just the bottom layer of many as each actor adds nuance and feeling, driving every minute to its final conclusion of the couple going back north to their home. Davidtz is stunning as the strong-willed woman who, while thinking these simpleminded folk will be easy to mold to her needs, discovers it is she who is out of her element and naïve to the ways of love and family. Benjamin McKenzie is powerful as the troubled Johnny who is full of both love and resentment for those around him. He knows his limitations and gets angry when others try to better him, because he feels condescended to. His stubbornness won't allow anyone to get close to him as any instance of compassion is seen as belittlement. Johnny loves his wife, as seen in the meerkat scene, yet can't allow her inside his emotions.

    Frank Hoyt Taylor is great as the link between worlds for Madeleine. He is the real reason she is there, as she wants the rights to distribute his Outsider Art: crude, vulgar, yet emotionally powerful paintings of war. Taylor plays him as a simple man, slightly touched with dementia, yet longing for what he knows. He does not care about the money or the fame, he creates for himself and God, and that is something a gallery director trying to outbid a NYC establishment can never understand. While Madeleine believes she is going to take care of him in the art world, she just can't see that the only way to do that would be to let him alone and leave him to do his work in peace without prying eyes watching. These southerners live for the land and their families, not material gains, shown most effectively by the father Eugene, played by Scott Wilson. He realizes that people aren't what they initially appear to be and has the most open mind to the thought of his son's quick courtship to marriage. Also, he knows that some things are sacred to those he can trust, like his woodworking skills and his wife's knitting. These are skills on par with Taylor's painting and he doesn't want them to be exploited as he is.

    The real heart and soul of the film, however, lies inside Amy Adams' Ashley. She is full of life, naivete, and love. Her pregnancy is seen, by her, as the act that will save her troubled husband from the funk he's been in for the past two years. Maybe a little joy is all that is needed for Johnny to once again see the world as good and not a series of hardships that forced him to quit high school and support his spouse. Adams is full of hope and trust for all those that enter her life. She is the only one to see Madeleine as a human being and not a monster trying to ruin what was left of their family. Probably holding the most insight of anyone, she carries the rest of the film on her shoulders, as well as those of her unborn child. That baby will change everyone for either good or bad. George realizes this and knows that he must stick by his family no matter what happens. He also knows that his wife is not quite able to do that as the educated life she lived has made her somewhat cold to the bigger picture of things. Once the climax surrounding Adams' character is revealed, the viewer gets to see what the real makeup of each person truly is.

    Junebug is a revelation of sorts. One cannot leave the film without having been changed in some small way by the proceedings. Emotions run high and family values are tested. Morrison has crafted a lyrical poem of life with a scarce but powerful palette. Even the tranquility of the trees in the North Carolina backyard is a sight to be ingrained in your consciousness. The quiet holds both joy and pain in its silence.
  • What a wonderful, beautiful, funny and touching movie! Being FROM North Carolina, I found this movie to be a sincere and poetic depiction of deep South culture. Many who view this movie will walk away with differing and varying views of the underlying story. Yet at its core Junebug is a simple look at two different cultures, how they collide and then after a period of understanding and self-realization, there is so much to learn about each other, (and their significant others)! I highly recommend this movie to all who have the opportunity to see it! As an aside, the writing and casting was perfect matched, but it all came together with the skillful direction of Mr. Morrison...shall I say Oscar? I for one can not wait for his next film.
  • "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.

    8/10 --spy
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am a Northerner and a solid city dweller. I have always suspected that when movies especially try to make their simple countrified characters seem morally superior by making them monosyllabic and lacking in anything resembling complex thought, that it was just a sad attempt by inept writers. Junebug does nothing to change that.

    In this Southern family, Dad just putters around in the basement workshop making wooden birds, Mom is a grump, Younger Brother is an idiot and a hothead and his ditsy, pregnant wife is an annoying motormouth. A little serious dysfunction would at least make this family interesting.

    Why is the returning son so upset at his British wife for not going to the hospital when numb-skull sister in law goes into labor? He apparently ran away from this small town family to the big city as soon as he could. Also, they are meeting her for the first time, meaning he didn't even invite his family to his wedding! How close are they supposed to be?

    There is nothing charming about monotonous morons. There is nothing inherently superior about country life as opposed to city life. They both have good and bad points.

    I know too, too many charming, vocal, intelligent, interesting and vibrant Southerners to believe this doltish family is something to admire. I bet they voted for "Dubya" Bush.
  • There was just too little story to go on in this film... I'm all for films that don't telegraph every detail and let the audience think things through for itself, but the paucity of storyline and the rather pretentiously "indie" film-making style made this an unpleasant experience.

    I just didn't know what the film was trying to tell us. If it was simply juxtaposing the urban and rural characters, it didn't do so in a very interesting way. If it was trying to be satirical or ironic, the satire or irony was lost on me. If it was trying to be a slice-of-life picture, then the either the life or the slice it was showing wasn't one that I really cared about when I left.

    The acting was good, but that's just not enough to recommend this film. Incomprehensibility should not be mistaken for depth.
  • If you are like most normal Americans, you probably find invasive dental procedures, such as a root canal, to be profoundly unpleasant. If, however, you are the type who, given the choice, would actually pay for the pleasure of sitting through a root canal, I believe I have a movie I can recommend to you.

    I can't help but feel like the fact that this movie was made in my hometown in suburban North Carolina obligates me to say glowing things about it. Sadly, that is something I cannot do. I found it to be a perfectly horrible movie with absolutely no likable characters or sympathetic situations.

    In a nutshell, "Junebug" is about a self-important and completely uninteresting art dealer who takes a trip to the south, where she proceeds to Not Have a Very Good Time. That's pretty much it.

    "This is no fun" is really the underlying theme of the movie. And it is equally true both for the characters in the movie and the audience. The overall tone of the movie is bleak, alternating between long, unenviable, boring stretches, interspersed with periodic bursts of highly unlikeable people behaving in highly unlikeable ways. (Not the good, interesting kind of unlikeable, such murderous or creepy, but a thoroughly unengaging sort of unlikeable, such as contempt and downright crankiness). Fifteen minutes into "Junebug", buoyed between overwhelming boredom and moderate discomfort (you know how you feel sitting through an ungodly, two-hour long mandatory sales meeting while combating diarrhea? Or getting motion sickness in the back seat of your parents' car during a long drive to grandma's house? That kind of feeling.), I began to enumerate ways of spending my time that might be less fun than sitting through this god-awful burden of a movie. And it was during this blessed distraction that I began to notice that "Junebug" has far more in common with a root canal than with an enjoyable cinematic experience.

    Your more pretentious viewers might describe this movie as "honest" (invariably adding the words "beautiful" and, of course, "indie" to their description, as though the latter unquestionably justifies use of the former). A root canal is also a startlingly honest experience, during which one can scarcely fail to comprehend the enormity of "a piece of my body has begun to rot and decay, the throbbing, abscessed nerve endings of which must now be extracted with a drill". The fact that it is honest, however, does not make it good. While dripping with its indie-film brand of faux-honesty, Junebug is just as nauseatingly unpleasant. As for whether "Junebug" is in fact, honest, I can only say that if I felt my life was accurately reflected in that miserable heap of suffering-artist, indie-film garbage, I would have committed suicide sometime in my teens, a decade and a half ago.

    Also like a root canal, this movie is really only bearable if experienced under heavy anesthetics.

    As for the performances of the cast, I suppose they are all just fine, though, again, there is little that is praiseworthy to be said about the ability to convincingly portray Uninteresting, Comptemptible, Dislikable, and Generally Unpleasant.

    A far cry from "beautiful" or "moving," this load of utter crap is not even able to achieve "interesting". If you are bored on a Saturday afternoon, I would suggest that you spend it lying on the couch in your dank apartment, watching the flies attempt to mate for 106 minutes... or even just boring holes into your more sensitive tissues. Ultimately you will feel just as satisfied with the use of your time as you would have if you had watched this movie, though you will have made a much more sound financial decision.
  • This movie is an insult to southerners, a bizarre mix of the sinister from "Deliverance" and the simpering childishness of Melanie Wilkes in "Gone With the Wind." The only southerners as weird as this family are in mental institutions, or the fertile imaginations of writers and directors. And is it some mediocre movie construct that dysfunctional families have to act as if they all had lobotomies (The Royal Tennenbaums)? No southern family would ever act like they were walking around in a fog, like this bunch did. It's not in the character of southerners. Would such a movie ever be made about any other regional, racial or ethnic group? Simpering, moronic Hispanics in Santa Fe? Farm families in Nebraska? Sioux on Pine Ridge? Black families in the Lower Ninth? A lot could have been done with the themes in this movie; unfortunately, sticking to lame stereotypes was easier.
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