Junebug movie review, Phil Morrison, Alessandro Nivola, Embeth Davidtz, Amy Adams, Benjamin McKenzie, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson, Frank Hoyt Taylor. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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A scene from 'Junebug'
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2 stars
107 minutes | Rated: R
NY/LA: Friday, August 5, 2005
LIMITED: Friday, August 12, 2005
Directed by Phil Morrison

Starring Alessandro Nivola, Embeth Davidtz, Amy Adams, Benjamin McKenzie, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson, Frank Hoyt Taylor

  • Alessandro Nivola
  • Embeth Davidtz
  • Amy Adams
  • Celia Weston
  • Scott Wilson
  • Frank Hoyt Taylor

  •  LINKS for this film
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    Shallow newlywed yuppies visit husband's humble family of redneck imbeciles in honest but grating 'Junebug'

    By Rob Blackwelder

    "Junebug" has received much praise since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, and I don't understand a bit of it.

    A returning-home drama centered on a artsy newlywed couple (Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz) from Chicago visiting the Southern family of folksy, dysfunctional, uncommunicative, bump-on-a-log suburban rednecks from which the husband fled several years ago, it's a dreary, stagnant story about people who make no effort to think or grow.

    Director Phil Morrison certainly nails the film's atmosphere with simple, static shots of empty spaces that capture the humid North Carolina pace of life, and he offers up fantastic little moments of body language that speak volumes about various characters. But when the characters are as chronically useless and emotionally stunted as this bunch, it's darn near impossible to care.

    George (Nivola) is uncomfortable being home, where he probably never belonged, but despite saying that family "means something," he hardly speaks to anyone -- even his wife -- during the trip, so there's no way to invest in him as a character. Madeleine (Davidtz) is trying very hard to be liked despite not fitting in at all, since she's a phony, upscale art dealer who specializes in fad-driven "outsider art" created by hillbillies, nutcases, and other clueless innocents not conscious of their supposed "talents." She spends half the movie pursuing a gallery deal with an uneducated bigot who paints scenes of racial violence that feature giant phalluses.

    She may be sophisticated, but she's not bright enough to keep away from Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie from "The O.C."), George's bitter, angry, irresponsible younger brother, who seeks short-cuts for everything in life and assumes Madeleine is coming onto him when she offers to help with an assignment for a community college class. Neither can she get away from Ashley (Amy Adams from "Catch Me If You Can"), Johnny's sweet, earnest, angelic, utter simpleton of a motor-mouthed young wife, who is eight months pregnant (she thought it would solve relationship problems) and desperate for a girlfriend to talk with about husbands and babies while they "play beauty parlor."

    And don't even get me started on George's passive-aggressive, pointlessly bristly mother (Celia Weston) and witlessly taciturn father (Scott Wilson), whose inept parenting clearly gave rise to this insufferable brood.

    With their utter lack of affection (save chirpy Ashley), love, measured communication, or anything else remotely resembling healthy relationships, spending 107 minutes with these twits is akin to psychological torture. However, I suppose the very fact that I hated them all so much speaks to the authenticity of the acting, which really is above reproach. The entire cast gives very convincing performances as the kind of ignorant, small-minded, psychologically puerile, and socially bereft people I think the world would be better without.

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