Wednesday, March 01, 2006


JunebugEmbeth Davidtz Directed by Phil Morrison
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

Thumbs Down


When Madeleine (Emily Davidtz, MANSFIELD PARK, 1999), a bohemian art dealer from Chicago, married George (Alessandro Nivola, LAUREL CANYON, 2002), a true southern beau, life started getting interesting. Their whirlwind marriage occurred only a few weeks after they met (love at first sight) and when they decided to head to North Carolina on business, and meet up with George’s eccentric and challenging family, short circuits were bound to happen.

Madeleine is deposited into this family’s home, meeting such interesting members as the quiet father Eugene (Scott Wilson, THE GRASS HARP, 1995), the domineering matriarchal family leader Peg (Celia Weston, THE VILLAGE, 2004), the angry and loathsome brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie, THE O.C. TV SERIES), and the lonely but ever upbeat — and pregnant — sister-in-law Ashley (Amy Adams, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, 2002).

Battles between small town American values and big city life clash (albeit very quietly) as Madeleine, George and George’s family have to deal with old wounds left by George’s leaving the town three years ago, old wounds that are opened anew within confused brother Johnny, the sexual appetite Madeleine and George have for one another in a household (and community) that has long since lost these passions, and a family that continues to hide its dysfunctions.

I love indie films. Love everything they stand for — little nothing company breaks into film on a shoestring budget, possibly gaining a larger audience thanks to such festivals as Sundance and Cannes. But sometimes these independent films miss the mark.

I’ll probably bring the wrath of reviewers down upon me for saying this, but I didn’t care for JUNEBUG at all. Once again I was fooled into believing what the critics (Ebert and Roeper, etc.) said about a film and decided to rent it.

I guess most of my disappointment stems from the movie's pacing. Although southern life tends to be slow, and this is an interesting fact of life for those that live in the Carolinas and surrounding area, it doesn’t necessarily translate well to film. I found myself yawning far too often.

The other big disappointment is that the movie’s labeled as a "comedy/drama." The fact that I didn’t crack a smile once during the entire flick tells me that either I missed the parts that were supposed to make me laugh (I’m usually a pretty astute viewer, though), or they (the laughs) missed their mark. Looking over the special features on the DVD, I found it puzzling when many of the actors and actresses kept referring to "the comedic portions of the film." Again, I didn’t see it.

And my final complaint is that the characters — with the exception of Amy Adams — were all one dimensional.

I will give some praise to the filming and cinematography. The director caught the unique qualities of the South quite well, so visually I thought the film was well put together. But the acting and pacing? Ugh!

Click here for the Junebug movie trailer!


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