Junebug (Sous-titres français)
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Rising stars Amy Adams and Ben McKenzie light up the screen in this award-winning comedy about love, family, ambition, and the choices that come with each. Worldly gallery owner Madeleine and her husband travel to North Carolina, where she hopes to woo a brilliant, but eccentric, folk painter. During this Southern journey, Madeleine also meets her new in-laws: George's skeptical mother, Peg; his silent and withdrawn father, Eugene; and his surly brother, Johnny. The only welcoming member of the family is Johnny's affectionate, enthusiastic, and extremely pregnant wife, Ashley. Struggling to balance church socials with delicate business negotiations, Madeleine finds that she must choose what matters to her most.
Junebug spotlights some big fat culture clashes--small town vs. city ways, art-world bohemian vs. church-going folk--yet social commentary never overwhelms a delightful, emotionally rich portrait of family life. When Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz, Schindler's List), a chic art gallery owner from Chicago, meets with an outsider artist in North Carolina she's eager to represent, she and her new husband George (Alessandro Nivola, Laurel Canyon) take a side trip to visit George's family. The visit sends everyone spinning: George's mother (Celia Weston, The Village) doubts the suitability of the marriage; his brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie, The O. C.) quietly seethes at being overshadowed again by his older sibling; and Johnny's very pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams, Catch Me If You Can) fixates on Madeleine, seeking in her a companionship that she can't find in her normal life. Junebug's unexpected rhythms slowly and subtly tease out the past; few movies are as eloquent about the mysteries of family--the hidden rules and resentments, the shifting alliances, the emotional pushes and pulls. Adams' justly praised performance lights up every scene she's in, flowing from comic to heartrending without missing a beat, but the rest of the cast delivers complex and mesmerizing character portraits as well. Junebug will resonate with you long after it's over. --Bret Fetzer
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Top Customer Reviews
This slice-of-life story takes us into the everyday life of the Johnsten family as seen through the eyes of an outsider. Madeline is the fish-out-of-water in Bible-belt country; the most important thing in life to her is her gallery, but slowly her priorities change. Embeth Davidtz is makes a lovely Madeline and Amy Adams easily steals all of her scenes as the sweet and silly Ashley. George's character isn't developed, perhaps to leave more time to get to know his family. They do come across as real people and we come to care about them all. It's a sweet, insightful little story about people who could very well be the family next door, just living their lives. Very enjoyable.
Newlyweds George (Alessandro Nivola) and Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) apparently had a small, private wedding because she has never met his family. When they find themselves traveling to North Carolina in order for Madeleine, an art gallery owner in Chicago, to court a promising folk artist, they naturally swing by to meet the folks. It's quite a family.Read more ›
more than a few times.the first thought i had was "talk about some
screwed up,moronic,dimwitted people.that seems to describe many of
the characters in the movie.other than that we have a real jerk,a
woman who cares about nothing except money and her self.there is also,
a bickering wife and the most sane person is the husband who barely
says more than than two words most of the movie.however,i stuck with the
movie,and i'm glad i did. many of the characters changed for the better
somewhat before the movie ended.the movie is billed as part comedy,but
it isn't really funny.it is very dramatic,very dialogue driven.it is
also heart wrenching at times.i'll admit,i bawled and blubbered heavily
towards the later stages of the film.Amy Adams blew me away with her
performance,starting off as a simple country girl,who seems a bit
dull,at first,but becomes really endearing as the movie progresses.this
movie is very bleak in its tone and deals worth some very heavy
issues.i am glad that i saw the movie through,even though i didn't get
it all.i know i'm being very vague about the movie,but trying to
describe it in depth is too difficult,as there is so much going on.it
is a very complex movie.it is truly a unique viewing experience.i do
recommend it,but be prepared to experience some strong emotions and
shed some tears. 5/5
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Newlyweds George (Alessandro Nivola) and Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) apparently had a small, private wedding because she has never met his family. When they find themselves traveling to North Carolina in order for Madeleine, an art gallery owner in Chicago, to court a promising folk artist, they naturally swing by to meet the folks. It's quite a family. There's Dad (Scott Wilson), the strong, silent type who spends most of his time in the basement, woodworking and looking for his screwdriver; Mom (Celia Weston), the enigmatic, direct, suspicious mother; Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie), George's moody, taciturn, stand-offish brother; and Johnny's wife Ashley (Amy Adams), who literally lights up the screen with her over-excitable, spontaneous personality (she's also the only major actor in the film to speak anything like a native North Carolinian). Ashley's the type who would drive many a person completely up the wall with her inability to ever stop talking and her immense wonder at everything in the world, but I quite fell in love with her from the very start. It's pretty obvious that part of her behavior is a front for some sadness, even desperation, in her life, and it's not hard to find the source - the uncommunicative Johnny, who seems to want nothing to do with anybody - especially George. Speaking of George, he sort of just disappears early on, leaving his fish-out-of-water wife to tackle all of his relatives on her own.
With no major happenings other than the impending arrival of Ashley's baby and Madeleine's frantic efforts to land the soon-to-be famous folk artist David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor), much of the focus is on the interrelationships of the family members, the issues and common bonds that make them a family. Some of the issues boil up to the surface largely because of Madeleine's presence. A look oftentimes says more than an extended scene of dialogue, and we do see some way into the souls of most of these individuals. There's no real sense of cloture at the end, but I suppose that is only natural since there is no real ending to family life itself. Things are always changing, for better or for worst. I certainly wonder what the future holds for these people - those I liked, anyway.
I have not seen The Constant Gardener, but that isn't going to stop me from saying that Amy Adams deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress over Rachel Weisz (and, seemingly, every film body other than the Academy agreed with me). Ashley is as captivating a character as I've come across in a long time, and Adams' performance runs the whole gamut from childlike glee to heart-breaking tragedy.
I would note that Junebug does not really capture the Tar Heel or Southern spirit - although pieces of it are there. I also can't imagine that David Wark's artwork would go over big in the South at all - anyone who draws the thing he draws on Robert E. Lee (and every other character in his War Between the States-themed work) won't be met by many open arms down here.
I only have one minor complaint about this film, and it concerns the director's sense of direction. It was interesting when he sidestepped away from a conversation to show us empty rooms with the muffled conversation continuing in the background, and some of his isolated shots of different little scenes were all well and good, but I think he just took it a bit too far at one point, making it look a little too much like he was just trying to be artsy-fartsy about the whole thing. That's truly a miniscule issue, however - certainly not enough to keep me from giving this refreshingly real film five stars.
Having grown up near the location of this movie, it caused me pain and embarrassment. It captured life that I knew as a child and to some extent today perfectly. I knew many of those characters. The realism was in the characters, the homes, and the landscapes down to the red clay soil. The house that the autistic painter lived in reminded me of my great grandmother's house and the houses of some of my grand-aunts. It caused me pain because of the realism. It caused me embarrassment because that's from when I came and it's not too pretty.
The realism included the attitudes, too. There are certain things Southerners feel and communicate in a subtle way. For example, they always feel that outsiders think themselves are better than Southerners. It's probably some deep seated inferiority complex. Southerners are not prone to boasting so it was no surprise when Madeleine learned that George could sing. The hymn, too, was "symbolic" all about coming home and sins being forgiven.
The motif of family also pained me because I struggle within myself about having left my Southern "family." The value of family was implied more than stated -- except for when George told Madeleine that "family matters". The fact that Ashley was having a baby and then lost it is also like Southerners (and maybe the whole world, I don't know) will try to solve family problems with more family. All the family was isolated and lonely and yet so close (the same house). Ashley comes across as a silly ignorant girl but a few times she revealed why she was talking so much. In the kitchen when George and Madeline just arrived and Peg, Johnny, Ashley, and Madeline are around the table getting to know each other, there was an incident where Ashley interrupted with a silly question to protect Madeline from having to answer Peg's question.
The South I grew up in had this uneasy relationship between religion and sex. That theme came out in the movie, too. There was Johnny's misinterpretation of Madeline trying to help him, there was the art from Mr. Walk, there was Peg concluding things about Madeline staying up late at night to help Johnny, and there were the looks in the church, oh and the nightly sex in only one bedroom -- George and Madeline's. They were the ones that had "escaped."
Escape is another theme. It came out in Huck Finn - the book Johnny was (supposed to be) reading. Instead he choose to read the Cliff notes. He said it was "too long." Madeline first asked if he thought it was funny. It wasn't funny to him because he wanted to escape but couldn't. It was depressing to him. However, he did escape at work. There he had an honest "family" without the blood bond obligations.
Ashley also wanted to escape: go to college, go to the mall, etc.
Mr. Walk (notice the name -- symbolic, he'd '"walked" out of the quagmire through his autism and art) always painted pictures of the three things that shape Southern thought the most: slavery, the Civil war, and sex (Robert E. Lee's penis wrapped around to the back of the painting (symbolic of "hiding" sex)). I don't recall the details but each painting I saw rang a bell with some theme in Southern psyche and/or the dysfunctional Southern family. He put faces on the characters - face of people that stuck in his mind. It struck me that had the movie not gone by so fast that probably those characters had something in common -- the face and the painter character, that is. George was on one of the revolting slaves. Perhaps George had been a slave to the family but had revolted and moved away.
Mr. Walk in some ways was like one of Shakespeare's court jesters, stating the oblivious (although Ashley might fit this role, too, at times at least). His recitation at the table after Ashley said the prayer was fantastic. As I write this I don't recall it but I recall thinking it parallel to the family situation even though it was about a Civil War battle.
Then there were the birds, one of which Madeline broke when she first arrived. Birds can fly. Members of the family wanted to fly away but that family bond kept them there.
The Dad (don't recall his name) choose to escape a different way. He went down in the basement. He retreated there anytime he couldn't deal with family things like Johnny's obnoxiousness or George & Madeline kissing in the car when they first arrived. He choose to communicate with things -- he carved a bird for Peg (I assume to replace the broken one).
In fact, all the Southerners created things: Peg made Ashley's maternity dresses, the Dad did woodworking, Johnny worked on cars. (Ok, maybe Ashley didn't).
Art is also an important motif. Madeline was an art dealer specializing in self-taught artists. That self-taught part strikes a chord with me because Southerners are too proud to be "taught." This was especially true of Johnny who was reluctantly getting his GED. Ashley mentioned that she'd like to go to College but as she mentioned, she had no family, so maybe that exempts her from the family issues.
It's this whole thing about family creating these overbearing emotional problems and the way the escape is art (painting, woodworking, etc.) Church is also a form of escape.
The themes were supported at every turn. Recall the preachers prayer. He spoke of evil at the door and it not coming in. Yet, in the family, the evil was the extreme family bond.
Recall also that Peg was shown crying several times. Why? Was she lonely or was she weeping because the family was so dysfunctional? Or because she's to old and trapped to escape. Or all of the above. The Dad said she was hard on the outside but soft on the inside. I guess so.
Cigarettes. That is the biggest social problem in the South. Another form of escape? Yet when the escapees (George and Madeline) came down to the South, they also started to smoke - something they hadn't needed to do in Chicago.
Last thing. In the South (I used to do this as a kid), we'd catch Junebugs , tie a string to their hind leg and let them fly in circles for hours. These Junebugs were big, not like those I've occasionally seen in eleewhere. Is it foretelling that the new child would orbit the family, never able to escape the bond of family? Unless, of course it wriggled away or more likely it was released. In the hospital Ashley had the maturity to release George (and Madeline kinda sorta).
George (Allesandro Nivola) is a suave and cultivated man who was raised in the country but has moved to and adjusted quite well to city life. George meets a beautiful and slightly older Chicago art gallery owner Madeline (Embeth Davidtz) at a showing. The two fall madly in love and are married to each other within a week. Madeline's gallery specializes in "outsider" artists--unknowns who create powerful and provocative works. She takes a fancy to the art created by a southern gentleman and when learning where he lives sets out to sign him to her gallery. Her trip south serves two purposes, though because George's family only live about thirty miles away from the artist and George and Madeline will be staying with them while in the area. After all, George really is a country boy and it's high time his wife met the family. During the course of their stay Madeline struggles with trying to be accepted by George's family, whom see her as an outsider, and signing the artist to her gallery. It is a collision of worlds: English vs. American, city vs. country, complex vs. simple. George has his own struggles, to as he attempts to bridge his past and upbringing with the lifestyle he is now leading. He has some assistance from his very pregnant sister-in-law Ashley (Amy Adams) who adores Madeline and the life she lives. Ashley loves her husband, but they've had some tough times and she hopes that the arrival of their baby (who she wants to nickname Junebug) will help bring some peace.
Ashley is supposed to be a secondary character in the film, but she is really the center of the story. Much of this is due to the performance of Amy Adams. Everyone does an excellent job in their various roles, but it is Adams who truly shines. She steals every scene that she is in and her portrayal of Ashley is touching and at times heartrending. It is an Oscar-worthy performance and I look forward to seeing everything Ms. Adams does in the future.
Not everyone will enjoy watching JUNEBUG. In fact, the first time I saw the movie I didn't like it very much. It had been highly recommended to me by a good friend whose taste in movies is almost impeccable. However, after having seen the movie again recently, I was overcome by the film's simple charms. It deals with some rather complex issues that parallel the cultural schism that seems to exist in our country. At the same time it is a wonderful little film that celebrates the beauty, wonder, and simplicity of life.
This slice-of-life story takes us into the everyday life of the Johnsten family as seen through the eyes of an outsider. Madeline is the fish-out-of-water in Bible-belt country; the most important thing in life to her is her gallery, but slowly her priorities change. Embeth Davidtz makes a lovely Madeline and Amy Adams easily steals all of her scenes as the sweet and silly Ashley. George's character isn't developed, perhaps to leave more time to get to know his family. They do come across as real people and we come to care about them all. It's a sweet, insightful little story about people who could very well be the family next door, just living their lives. Very enjoyable.