A review of “Junebug” by Jeanne Aufmuth
Rating: R for sexual
content and language
hour, 42 minutes
living feels indescribably delicious in this languorous ode to small-town dysfunction.
George Johnston (Alessandro Nivola) is coming home to his roots, a small North Carolina town
where time seems to have stood still. Along for the ride is new bride Madeleine
(Embeth Davidtz), a British-born art dealer who has taken a shine to the work
of a local painter.
The Johnstons are atwitter with
the impending visit that traverses a broad range of expectation. Bitter younger
brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie) dreads the appearance of the over-achieving
prodigal son while his relentlessly guileless and very pregnant wife Ashley
(Amy Adams) practically swoons with eager anticipation.
(Scott Wilson) takes it all in stride while mom Peg (the ever excellent grande
dame Celia Weston) bristles at the thought of a sophisticated outsider
garnering the attention of her successful son. Madeleine does her best to fit
in but seems to rub everyone but Ashley the wrong way.
be thicker than water but you wouldn’t know it from the hornet’s nest of
emotion that rages inside the Johnston
household. From fat to frying pan theirs is a robust stew of history,
tradition, sensitivity and misinterpretation.
The Johnston’s mercurial
hostility juxtaposed against Ashley’s naive exuberance lends an unexpected poignancy
that is painfully becoming. First time-feature director Phil Morrison (along
with screenwriter Angus MacLachlan) has a bead on the rural south, perfectly
capturing the simplicity so deeply rooted in that culture.
balancing act threatens to teeter in spots but “Junebug” offers an essence of
goodness, lacking the pretty-boy pretensions of so many critical darlings. That’s
a very good thing indeed.