Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Ben McKenzie, Alessandro Nivola, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson, Victoria Jackson
Written by: Angus MacLachlan
Directed by: Phil Morrison
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 01/24/2005
IMDB

Junebug (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Country Cousins

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Phil Morrison's Junebug is one of those independent movies that inspires use of the word "quirky." It takes a couple of sophisticated city dwellers and plunks them down in the middle of a sheltered rural America, so that it's almost like watching aliens from Venus visiting Mars.

Embeth Davidtz plays Madeleine, a Chicago art dealer who has found her latest discovery in North Carolina. While there, Madeleine and her new husband George (Alessandro Nivola) decide to visit George's family, whom he hasn't seen in years. They include George's father Eugene (Scott Wilson) and mother Peg (Celia Weston), his brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie), and Johnny's pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams).

Thankfully screenwriter Angus MacLachlan and director Morrison, making his feature debut, don't take the easy way out by making fun of the country folk, or by "humanizing" the city folk and converting them to country ways. Rather, the filmmakers carefully let us in on who each of these characters really is.

When Madeleine accidentally breaks a tchotchke upon her arrival, Ashley takes the blame. Ashley comes across as a bubbleheaded doormat, but Junebug eventually lets us see how lonely and desperate she really is. Her stubborn, frustrated husband reveals himself in one delightful scene in which he tries to tape a television program on meerkats for her, but can't get the VCR to work. He throws a fit, and she comes to comfort him, unaware of how sweet he was trying to be.

Unfortunately, trouble comes in paradise, when -- inevitably -- Ashley goes to the hospital to have her baby and the film switches gears into straight-faced drama, leaving behind all the funny and delightful quirkiness it went to such trouble to establish. It's a sign that the filmmakers wanted something more than a "mere" comedy, and they've sabotaged their own efforts.

Amy Adams (Catch Me If You Can, Pumpkin) emerges as the star of the show, however, and the film deserves a look because of her funny, touching performance.

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