Junebug
You can barely tell she’s pregnant.


Golden Mug

2005 GOLDEN MUGS

WINNER:

Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams)
Best Original Screenplay (Angus MacLachlan)

NOMINEE:

Best Picture
Best Actress (Embeth Davitz)


Theatrical Release Date: 08/05/2005
Director: Phil Morrison
Cast: Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Benjamin McKenzie, Scott Wilson, Celia Weston

Every once in a while, a little film comes around that just captures my soul. I get lost in the world that is presented and when the film ends, I’m left heartbroken, feeling like it’s my life that’s ending. With “Junebug”, Director Phil Morrison and writer Angus MacLachlan have created that kind of a film.

The basic story involves Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) and George (Alessandro Nivola), newlyweds who are coincidentally nearby his small southern town and decide to visit his family, none of whom have met Madeleine yet. The family is gorgeously portrayed by Amy Adams, Benjamin McKenzie, Scott Wilson and Celia Weston. While there are subplots to the film, the main thrust involves Madeleine discovering what’s really important in life, where her priorities should lie.

To that end, Davidtz is remarkable. Her vulnerability and need to be liked by her new in-laws is played to perfection. She earnestly tries to make connections with each family member and takes any cold shoulders or unwelcome comments with aplomb and a stiff upper lip.

Nivola does yet another fantastic job. It seems like every time I see one of his movies, “Face/Off” notwithstanding, he creates a fascinating and unique character, full of charisma and mystery. As was the case in “Laurel Canyon”, he does get to show off his singing voice, if only for a small bit in this film. And like Davidtz, he uses subtle glances and body language to tell the audiences everything they need to know in such a fantastic way that at times I almost wished this was a silent movie.

Amy Adams’ performance is nothing short of amazing and I hope she is recognized accordingly by the numerous awards organizations. Her character’s disturbingly positive attitude only masks her borderline pathological insecurity. She plays the character straight, which many actresses would find hard to do, given the extreme character traits exhibited. And while her comedic talents are very impressive, her dramatic work in the film is spectacular.

The bond created by the actors and the manner in which they relate to each other almost make the film seem like a documentary. If I didn’t already know the majority of the principle actors, I could almost have been fooled. And the filmmakers’ choice to shoot in 16mm paid off big time, presenting a film that looks like a home movie. Yet another small way in which the film latches onto the audience.

What impresses me so much about this film is the masterful use of pauses and subtle, non-verbal cues. The film could have had the dialogue taken out and everything would have been understood completely. At the same time, I’m astounded by how accessible the film remains. Most independent features that use such subtlety end up being labeled as an “art house” film and split audiences into two groups – those who like subtle, thought-provoking movies and those who need a car chase or at least a generic, predictable plot to feel at ease within the confines of the theatre.

“Junebug” transcends that, creating a work of art that both the layman and the scholar can enjoy (not that I’m judging … yes I am … deal with it). Driving home from the theatre, I kept running so many superlatives through my head that I almost shook the profound sense of loss I felt when the credits began to roll. By the end of the film, I felt like I was a part of the family, like I was Madeleine trying to make a good impression. (Don’t bring Freud into this, I’m on a roll).

I’m almost glad there are only a handful, if that many, of films each year that resonate so strongly as “Junebug”. I don’t think I could take it emotionally without a very expensive therapist. I hope I’m not making the film sound like such a downer, it’s not. It’s a slice of real life, served on a beautiful silver platter.

If you don’t want a movie about real life, go see the latest Hollywood remake. If you want to feel like your ten bucks went to something important, go see “Junebug”. Sip some champagne during the trailers and then sit back and enjoy. A 5 out of 5, this is a sure-fire contender to be one of the top films of the year.