Posted April 8, 2011 by Alex Moss Editor in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

Junebug


A bittersweet character drama about meeting the in-laws.

A bittersweet character drama
about meeting the in-laws.

Before
she had Doubt (2008) and sparred
with The Fighter (2010) Amy Adams stole hearts with this
wonderfully quirky Indie drama. Where it succeeds when so many other films of
this ilk would fail is by drawing sympathetic characters in believable
circumstances. Both the drama and the humour are drawn from the utter reality
that you have encountered these people in some form or other in your own life.

On a
trip to South Carolina, to sign a new artist, art dealer Madeleine (Davidtiz) decides to take the
opportunity to meet the in-laws of her new husband George (Nivola). Once there Madeleine meets mother Peg (Weston), father Eugene (Wilson), younger brother Johnny (McKenzie)
and his heavily pregnant wife Ashley (Adams).
As Madeleine tries to navigate the family politics she must also try to
convince eccentric artist David Wark (Hoyt
Taylor
) to sign for her rather than the competition.

Very
much a film about cultures colliding we get a glimpse into the lives of these
characters without ever finding out all there is to know. We are only ever kept
as informed as Madeleine is, and even then perhaps less so. For example there
is an uncomfortable tension between George and his under-achieving brother
Johnny that is never explained but made all the more palpable as a result.

While
Madeleine tries her best to be warm and accommodating to the family she
projects an air of superiority to them. Crucial though is that no one character
remains blameless. For every patronising comment Madeleine makes the family
find opportunity to judge her city-slicker ways. It is only Ashley, hungry for
any semblance of glamour who welcomes Madeleine into the family fray. The irony
is not lost that she herself has clearly had to fight her way into acceptance
within the home.

Director
Morrison and writer MacLachlan’s keen sense of timing
rescues what might sound like uncomfortable viewing. Just when one character’s
flaws are abundantly clear they find ways of redeeming them. This is
particularly true of Johnny, a morose and hostile young man. Just when you wonder why the full of
beans Ashley is with him he desperately tries to record a show about meerkats,
Ashley’s favourite animal, while she attends her baby-shower. It is a moment
that ends badly but the sentiment is undeniably heartfelt.

What
makes these interactions so wonderful to behold is a cast that, across the
board, are on brilliant form. McKenzie, still best known for TV’s The OC, implores
Johnny with a sense of hopeless unworthiness that demands both sympathy and
frustration. Nivola is able to project charm, but more importantly ambiguity
into a role that has very little screen time. But the film belongs to Adams and
Davidtz. As Madeleine, Davidtz brings a soft maternal quality to the role,
something imperative given the constant question of whether she is too old to
have children. Adams on the other hand is so utterly charming you wonder how
she is able to get anything done without being hugged to death by all and
sundry. Suffering from ‘always look on the bright side of life’ verbal
diarrhoea she injects so much innocent charm into Ashley that you invest in the
film so completely.

Quirky
and with enough pathos to melt the heart Junebug is a film that positively
glows with pregnancy. All the characters are fascinating to get to know and yet
the ambiguity surrounding them allows for a sense of reality. As dad of the film Eugene states “she hides
herself, like most”, and it is in hiding itself that Junebug shows its true
colours.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com