Families from the North are so boring.
High-class gallery owner Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) meets a young, charming guy (Alessandro Nivola) and they instantly fall in love. They don’t really get the chance to know each other fully, but they do know that they want each other, and badly. So, why not tie the knot while the emotions are telling you to? Well, they do! But once their done with the honey-moon, all of the sex, and all of the other lovin’ that goes on, Madeleine has to get right back down to business and start recruiting for his next art-show, which somehow brings all the way to North Carolina. The artist she wants has an odd style, but that doesn’t matter because she’s unique so obviously Madeleine can’t pass up on that. Oh, and also, her hubby’s family just so happens to live there as well, which means that she gets the chance to meet the fam-squad, in all their Southern-glory.
Judging by what you read up there for that synopsis, you are probably already thinking that it’s going to be another goofy, wacky take on what would happen when a Northern, uptight, richy-rich had to be stuck with the backwood crazy in-laws. That is sort of the take on the movie, but it’s not as goofy as you may think. Because remember, it’s an indie flick, and if you know your indies, trust me, they aren’t going to play by the rules. But in a way, for once in my life, I sort of wish that they did.
A lot of the stereotypes you expect from a movie about meeting the in-laws is here: The disapproving mother; the mad, slightly jealous brother; the in-law that tries so hard to be nice, but instead becomes smothering; the reserved father, etc. And to be honest, all of the stereotypes ring true well-enough to where you understand why these characters act the way that they do when they’re around certain people. However, they also seem a bit tired here as the film tries too hard to make us feel for these characters/stereotypes, when it isn’t really doing anything in the first place. The script itself had some very high moments where I was expecting them to go a certain type of direction and really get us involved with these characters and their lives, but instead, the film would just cut-away or throw something quirky in there for harm’s sake. I get it, these Southerners are goofy, but that doesn’t mean that everything they do has to be stupid, silly, and/or out-of-this-world. They can be just like you or me and have a normal conversation, about normal things, and go through their days as everyday, normal people. Seriously, I’m no Southerner myself, but if I was, I’d be a bit offended with this.
I have to give the film some credit though, because it does try to bring some heart and emotion out of these characters, which it does succeed surprisingly well in. But most of that is thanks to the actors portraying them, the problem is something with the script that just isn’t giving them the brilliance most of them deserve. Something by the end of the movie happens, and I won’t say what, but it’s pretty sad and the film tries to capitalize on the emotion of it by showing all of the characters different perspectives on it, but strangely, it was a very detached moment I had with the flick. Yeah, it was kind of upsetting to see some of these characters all upset about something bad that has just happened, but did it make me care anymore? No, not really. Maybe with the exception of maybe one or two characters out of the whole slew, but overall, I just did not feel attached. Like something was missing, or that my copy of this made a skip by accident.
But it wasn’t the fact that these characters didn’t do much for me, it’s also the fact that the direction seemed a bit lazy. Director Phil Morrison seems like he’s trying so damn hard to make us feel like we are right there in the South by constantly having this movie move at a slow, death-like pace to get us in-touch with the way these Southerners live. You know, because no matter what happens during a Southerners’ day, they never feel the need to move around, run, or move at a fast-paced speed. It’s always got to be slow and steady, and with a film like this, trust me, it doesn’t win the race.
See what I did there? I’m a cheeky motherfucker sometimes, I gotta say.
As much as I’m ragging and tagging on this film, I can’t say that I absolutely hated it. The reason I say that, is mainly because of Amy Adams in what is one of the most energetic and spirited performances I have ever seen this gal give, which is saying a hell of a whole lot. I’m not going to lie, Adams has not always been a favorite of mine but she has never really been a hater of mine, either, if that makes any sense. I’ve always appreciated the amount of energy and class she’s been able to give in countless movies where everybody else seems like they’re just snoozing the whole time, and hey, she’s also got four Oscar nominations to show for it too, so you can’t go wrong with her on that boat. Her role here as Ashley, the extremely pregnant sister-in-law who, right from our first glimpse of her, absolutely lights up everyone and everything else around her in the movie, and doesn’t let-up neither. No wonder why the Academy felt like she deserved a nomination here!
Ashley is one of those goofy, naive characters that shows up in a movie or two and just annoys the hell out of some people, but Adams plays it different. You could almost say that all of the annoyance and constant wackiness to her character has something underlining it all and it’s an impending sadness within herself that really makes this character click the whole way through. We constantly see her struggle with being pregnant, not having a hubby that wants a baby with her, and jnot being able to get the love in return, that she seems to give so much away of. It’s a sad character if you really think about it, but Adams successfully disguises that with her sunny-side-up approach to everything in this movie, making her performance/character definitely the most memorable aspect of this whole thing. Honestly, she has to be because I just wrote two freakin’ paragraphs about her. And I never do that!
Then again, due to Adams being so lively all the time, she actually, slowly but surely, steals the show from everybody else and it’s pretty evident as to why: None of these characters have anything really going for themselves that’s worth shining a light on in the first place. Embeth Davidtz is the only one who comes remotely close to doing so as Madeleine, a character so nice and beautiful, that it’s hard to see why the family doesn’t love her right after the introductions have been made; Allesandro Nivola tries his hardest as George, but, despite being the main character that this story mainly surrounds itself around, he’s rarely in it and when he does show-up, seems a bit misplaced from the rest of the material; Benjamin McKenzie shows up as Johnny, George’s brother, and barely speaks at all throughout the whole film and is too much of an asshole to really have a care for at all; and Celia Weston plays Peg, George and Johnny’s mama, who’s good in some spots, but in others, seems like she’s trying too hard to be that disapproving mother who doesn’t think any girl is good enough for her boy. Trust me, that act, gets way, way old by about the 17th girlfriend. Give it up mommas!
Consensus: The more and more that I think about Junebug, the more I feel like it’s just a mixed-bag with plenty of smart ideas and moments of inspiration, but yet, never knows what to do with them, or how to have them all come out in a smart, effective way. The only way this movie is smart and effective, is all through Amy Adams’ break-out performance, which goes to show you why we’re still in love with her, all these years later.
6 / 10 = Rental!!