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Overall Rating
4.33

Awesome58.33%
Worth A Look: 21.67%
Average: 16.67%
Pretty Bad: 1.67%
Total Crap: 1.67%

5 reviews, 30 user ratings


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Junebug
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by Jay Seaver

"Amy Adams. Remember that name."
4 stars

There are any number of good things to say about "Junebug". It's got interesting things to say about art and the art business. It's a great demonstration of how both the tensions and affection within a family, and the reasons for them, often go unsaid and misunderstood by outsiders. It features an unusually even-handed look at the uneasy co-existence of urban and rural America. But when all is said and done, even all of its other fine qualities blend together as a footnote to one thought: That Amy Adams, she deserves some sort of award.

We don't meet Adams right away; we first encounter Madeline and George (Embeth Davidtz and Alessandro Nivola). She's a gallery owner in Chicago; he's her new husband. They've traveled to South Carolina so that she can meet with an "outsider artist" who happens to live near George's family, whom she's never met. Ms. Adams plays Ashley, the literally barefoot and pregnant wife of Geroge's brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie), both of him still live with his parents (Celia Weston and Scott Wilson).

Ashley is almost inhumanly nice. She may not be capable of having an unkind thought. Before the visitors' arrival, she has resolved to hate Madeline, but immediately proves powerless against the fact that this slender, accented woman from CHICAGO who was born OVERSEAS and makes a living selling FINE ART is easily the most glamorous person she has ever encountered, and within no time she's chattering away, thrilled that Madeline doesn't dismiss her out of hand. The amazing thing is that we in the audience don't either. Ashley's not close to as intelligent or independent as her new friend, but she's the most sincere person you'll ever come across. There's nothing affected about Amy Adams's performance; she doesn't fall back on repeated mannerisms or obviously poor English, which means there's no easy hook for looking down at her. She's maybe a little too loud and enthusiastic for some tastes, but Adams makes it feel non-condescending.

The rest of the characters are generally more complex, but not necessarily as intriguing. Alessandro Nivola, for instance, makes us believe in all George's contradictions, and as a character with a foot in both worlds might have the most dramatic potential, but he never really grabs our attention the way Adams does. Weston and Wilson as the parents are a little more interesting, but they share scenes much more than they dominate them. Embeth Davidtz is at the center of the film, story-wise - she's involved in both the family and artist threads - but her Madeline is almost as reserved as Ashley is open, and for this does elicit the audience's curiosity. It's hard to tell, at first, what she really thinks of George's family; she's the kind of polite that experience tells us doesn't indicate genuine interest, but if it's a front, it's one with no obvious holes. Despite that placid exterior, she does make enough of an impression that she can make us feel proud or disappointed during the final act.

Frank Hoyt Taylor presents no such front as David Wark, the artist Madeline has come to speak and negotiate with. Wark is an ugly, troll-like man whose art is grotesque and disturbing, and as much as we're inclined to dislike both his behavior and his work, they at least reflect something him. As scuzzy as Wark is, it's honest scuzziness; what are we to think of the educated people, probably left-of-center politically, who praise its "rawness" and compete to offer him fame and fortune. More astute cineastes than I will note that the character's name is taken from D.W. Griffith's initials; perhaps we're supposed to look beyond the offensive nature of the art to see his talent, although we don't ever get the sense that there is intellect to go with his artistry.

Director Phil Morrison and writer Angus MacLachlan do a nice job of presenting the south without ridiculing or over-sentimentalizing it. I'm not sure if they're from that part of the country, but I sort of suspect it; there's detail that struck me as believable despite being well outside my experience. They balance and merge their two storylines well - the Wark thread could have just been a reason to get Madeline and George into town, but it's got something to say. Morrison keeps things moving without the film actually having many events; it feels like a much more compact film than it is.

And having Amy Adams's performance doesn't hurt. This movie's going to get her noticed.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11221&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/05/05 10:34:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/18/17 Anne Selby worth a look-average 3 stars
5/22/15 David Hollingsworth Quirky, smart, and a film that is absolutely endearing 5 stars
10/02/07 Chris V I feel vindicated by your review. Amy Adams was exquite and perhaps worth the trouble. 3 stars
8/11/07 Barb One of the best I've seen. Subtle, moving, true. 5 stars
8/05/07 fools♫gold Not too bad, but is it really so fantastic? 4 stars
4/22/07 Mac Dude! Ben Gazarra is NOT in this flick! 5 stars
3/07/07 Frank Rountree Good God! What a hideous movie, total crap!!! 1 stars
11/23/06 SHANIA DELORME I LOVE BENJAMIN MCKENZIE SOOOO MUCH 5 stars
8/28/06 Anastasia Lawrence moving 5 stars
8/23/06 Alice Derfler Is Amy Adams related to Celie Watson? 5 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth memorable 5 stars
6/29/06 Jay Offbeat little character study with a great cast. Worth the rental. 4 stars
6/11/06 Brian O'Neill I agree with you. So lovely to find a film that knows the SUBTLETY of family dynamics! 5 stars
5/30/06 shania delorme BENJMIN MCKENZIE IS THE HOTTEST MAN EVER 5 stars
5/23/06 TxGirlNBoston worth watching, characters are great, good movie 4 stars
4/16/06 hamilton5258 Great if you like going to the dentist. Good acting. 2 stars
3/23/06 Annie G Not bad if you are looking for some good character sketches, but not a plot. 3 stars
2/24/06 Allyson Holt Like math, the whole equaled the sum of the parts (family), divided by Ashley. 5 stars
2/19/06 Phil M. Aficionado Sorry Aaron Ducat; you could not be more off target; stunning cast/film; so GENUINE in feel 5 stars
1/23/06 Richard Excellent movie, but Ben Gazarra wasn't in it -- that was Scott Wilson. 4 stars
11/04/05 shania delorme BENJAMIN MCKENZIE IS THE HOTTEST GUY EVER 5 stars
10/04/05 Elizabeth S Quite good! Liked that like life, it doesn't resolve all issues. 3 stars
9/25/05 jcjs a perfect movie or as close as ya can get to it 5 stars
9/17/05 lorraine kotraba The acting was superb. It was definitely poking fun at the South. 4 stars
9/06/05 fjfendt@yahoo.com Couldn't agree with you more. Knocked me off my feet! One of the best I've seen ! 5 stars
8/07/05 R. Mintz Great movie. I agrree with your commnets but it's Scott Wilson not Ben Gazzara 5 stars
8/05/05 Mariabbe at times charming, very slow 4 stars
3/27/05 harvey shapiro awesome--wish there were more movies like this! 5 stars
3/04/05 Carla I love this movie!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/01/05 Kris Amy Smart is awesome; Embeth Davidtz is also good 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Aug-2005 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jan-2006

UK
  14-Apr-2006

Australia
  29-Jun-2006




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