Thursday, July 2, 2009


"Junebug" (Phil Morrison, 2006) Indie drama about a newly-married couple (Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola) who take advantage of a business trip to visit his emotionally stunted family in South Carolina, where the worldly Davidtz character must learn to cope. There's the sad, sweet father (Scott Wilson) who offers nothing. The matriarch (Celia Weston) who rules the roost. Brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie) is a diffident passive-agressive jerk with anger-control issues, and his wife Ashley (Amy Adams), nine months pregnant and with a natural ADD that has nothing to do with hormones.

Morrison knew that he caught lightning in a bottle with Amy Adams—her character is introduced with a humongous close-up that conceals the character's pregnancy, but can't contain the aggressively up-with-people attitude of the one vibrant person in the house. You just know that given a huge pile of manure, she'd start digging through, looking for a pony. Adams takes the script and whip-saws from subject to subject along high emotional peaks—watching her performance is a bit unnerving and thrilling at the same time, like watching someone drive fast around precipitous mountain curves.

You also know, that, like they said in high school, she's cruisin' for a bruisin,'
such a bubble of high-spiritedness has to be popped in a drama, especially in the subgenus of indie dramas that thrive on lessons learned from disappointment.

The movie isn't disappointing, though.
Morrison has created an austere environment for his piece giving a sense of everything being "just so" on the surface. In the meticulous casting there are delights of nuance and subtlety across the board that reveal hidden truths behind the "settled" behaviors. I was particularly charmed with character actor Scott Wilson (he played Richard Hickock to Robert Blake's Perry Smith in Richard Brooks' "In Cold Blood" and has made a career of playing distressed rural types), whose sad-eyed father appears to be a study in lethargy, but is quietly aware of everything that goes on in the house. When his wife wants him to have a "talking to" with Davidtz's Madeleine, he greets her entrance with a hand-wave that's more warning than greeting. A tiny moment, in a movie bristling with them, fleeting truths that arrive and the seasonal annoyances the movie is named for.

Coming Attractions: We're going to change things up a bit schedule-wise, making this a short review week due to the long July 4th week-end. Tomorrow, we're going to present an Independence Day "Don't Make a Scene" that will last through the weekend—and it's an interesting one, consisting mostly of screen-shots, and a bit of dialogue with the most unlikely screen-credit I've applied in the series. Then, owing to that three-day Scene, we'll start off afresh Monday with a review of a new film, and there will very likely be others...maybe even four new releases reviewed. But, even if new reviews don't get posted, the future line-up of reviews is going to be the extreme.

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