Junebug tells the story of Madeleine, an art gallery owner from Chicago, who meets and falls in love with successful North Carolinian, George. Madeleine is seeking to sign one of her favourite Southern artists, a reclusive and obtuse man named David Wark, to a contract so she can show his work in her gallery in Illinois. George tags along with her on her trip and they make a stop at his childhood home while they’re there, meeting George’s family. His cold and stand-offish mother, his honest and composed father, his angry and troubled brother, and his brother’s kind-hearted and pregnant wife. With a mixed reaction from George’s family, and difficulties in signing David Wark to a contract, Madeleine and George go through a series of situations, some good and some tragic, as they revisit George’s past in the hot, insect buzzing Carolina town he was raised in.
Embeth Davidtz (Schindler’s List) plays Madeleine, a successful and independent woman who is a stark contast in personality to George’s family members. George, played by Alessandro Nivola (Face Off), is a down-to-earth man who attempts to juggle his family and his girlfriend and the boiling tension that exists with his brother, Johnny, played by Ben McKenzie (Gotham). With Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead) as George’s father, Eugene, and Celia Weston (The Village) as his mother, Peg, the cast is a wonderful ensemble, and it topped off with a magnificent and standout performance by Amy Adams (American Hustle), as George’s sister-in-law, Ashley, who befriends Madeleine from the very beginning. It’s just a fantastic gathering of actors who work well together, and with side characters like David Wark, played by Frank Hoyt Taylor (Big Fish), the film is given a rich universe in which our characters exist and explore.
Phil Morrison (All is Bright) directs, with a great script penned by Angus MacLachlan (Stone), and their partnership proves successful here. The rural setting and the wonderfully rustic feel of the way the film is shot, works well with the Carolinian haze and the sounds of chirping crickets in the background. The long shots that settle on inanimate objects, on trees, on expressions, allows us to contemplate and think about what is going on in the lives of these characters, characters that are all given layers and reasons for acting the way that they do. The folksy and acoustic soundtrack fits in perfectly with the tone of the film too, bringing the whole thing together in a seamless manner.
I was astonished with Amy Adams here. I’m a fan of her work in films like The Fighter, American Hustle and Sunshine Cleaning, and her performance here just goes to prove further, to me, how amazing an actress she is. It is no surprise that she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Ashley in this movie. I was also impressed with Ben McKenzie as Johnny, a subtle performance of a character who is wrestling with his inner demons yet showing glimpses of the good heart he has beneath. It’s no shock that McKenzie is about to see bigtime success as the lead in Gotham, as James Gordon.
With a delicate sense of humour and liberated direction, this film might not be for everyone, but for those willing to be taken away by the magical undertone that exists here, and the excellent performances from its wonderful cast, there is so much to like here, and so easy to be charmed by what It offers.
Junebug is available on 2-disc DVD in the UK, from Eureka, now.