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"Junebug"

Directed by Phil Morrison.
Written by Angus MacLachlan.
Starring Alessandro Nivola, Embeth Davidtz, Celia Weston and Amy Adams.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  10/9/2005

Folks--

Given that I saw this film on a weeknight with other friends of mine, it is surprising that I caught myself dozing while watching the flick "Junebug" at the local indie house last week.  This normally happens when a film is so boring, so bereft of anything remotely interesting, that even making the normal snide comments to friends can't keep me from temporary slumber.

So, in recollecting the details of what was wrong with this movie, it's important to note one important fact about this film:  without Amy Adams, "Junebug" is an easy Hard Vice.

Alessandro Nivola (many small parts, but my only memory of him is as Castor Troy's younger bro in "Face/Off") is George, newly married to Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz), an arts dealer he met in Chicago.  Fast forward to the present:  Madeleine needs to go to North Carolina to meet up with a new artist that her company hopes to promote; George's family (they didn't attend the wedding) lives in Carolina as well.  The couple decides to head on down to knock out both activities in one weekend.  The family certainly has some of the Southern stereotypes you would expect, but they aren't out-and-out rednecks--Mom (Celia Weston) and Dad (Scott Wilson) drop occasional off-color references but with the mundane attitude that characterizes unintentional racism; George's brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie) wears his hat perfectly Southern-like, almost NASCAR-esque in its not-quite-on-the-head-ency, and Johnny lives at home with his pregnant wife Ashley (Adams), who almost spooks you out with her incessant energy and thick-as-molasses accent.

Even now, I remember that things were happening during "Junebug" but none of it seemed to mean anything.  That is at least true whenever Adams was not onscreen; when Adams was onscreen, the film is alive in a way that runs counteractive to the rest of the movie.  From her constant bantering with Madeleine and need for attention that Johnny is not giving her, Ashley is the focal point of the film anyway (at least, given the film's title, which is revealed midway through) and Adams' performance is brilliant the whole time.

In many ways, the thing about "Junebug" that bugs me in the constant way in which many of today's indies go out of their way to show us the remote, cold nature of the American family; from George's attempts to spend as little time as possible with his parents, to the just-enough love the parents seem to have for each other--Dad seems to be in the basement the entire film--to the comments that George & Madeleine make upon finally escaping town for the weekend...this theme is just a bit much for me these days.  I think I get more out of happy family times in movies these days, if anything, because it's so rare that filmmakers find that situation to be interesting from a storytelling perspective.  Sure, life's tough, but the continuous beating I take watching writers & directors portray family life as this bleak, man-this-is-tough-but-somehow-we-are-gonna-make-it ordeal is really getting stale.

"Junebug" isn't all negativity--certainly, George & Madeleine seem to be happy, even if Johnny isn't the best family man for Ashley--but after walking out of the theater that's what I was feeling, so sorry, I've been down this road before.  Certainly this one should be caught on DVD this fall, but I think you can't really justify the Adams performance as the reason to run out and see this flick when you've got other options on the table.

Rating:  Rental

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09