This month marks the tenth anniversary of the great film Junebug, best known as the movie that introduced Amy Adams to everyone that wasn’t a fan of Cruel Intentions 2 or Psycho Beach Party. Directed by Phil Morrison and written by Angus MacLachlan, the picture centers on a highbrow art dealer (Embeth Davidtz) who finally meets her husband’s family while courting a peculiar painter in North Carolina.
As a reminder/celebration for this film, I’m going to take a look at my favorite elements of Junebug that not only hold-up, but are shining examples of why it’s audience ought to be greater.
The Opening Credits : After briefly seeing Davidtz and soon-to-be-husband Alessandro Nivola’s first meeting at an art-auction, the pair are seen enthusiastically kissing one another as Yo La Tengo’s “Harmour Love” plays. It’s catchy, bubbly and jangly, with the first itches of romance. Davidtz then takes a beat and asks, “Where do you come from?”
Amy Adams : There’s a reason Adams began to become a star here; she’s amazing in this thing. As the oh-so-pregnant sister-in-law to Davidtz, Adams is kind, perhaps to a fault, with the glee that only resonates because it clearly comes from an honest place. It’s this sincerity that would be shown in varying shades for years to come.
Meerkats! : They’re cute, the favorite animal of Ms. Adams and the centerpiece to a scene where Ben McKenzie’s gets a shot to try and do something kind for his wife. As he struggles to get a VHS tape together in order to record a television program about the creatures, a new trace of McKenzie comes into being, even as the disgruntled side shown elsewhere ends up consuming his mindset once more.
The Church Service : While it’s clear that Davidtz and Nivola married one another rather quickly, up until this moment their relationship is a fluid one. He is a Southern Boy, but seemingly in origin only. Here Davidtz sees him in a drastically new light. It begins quietly, as she recognizes that those who’ve known him longest view him as quite a religious man. Then, Nivola is invited to sing a hymn, one of which he belts with unbridled passion and belief. Davidtz watches him anew; fresh eyes of a man she is still discovering.
Morrison’s Earnestness : While it’s MacLachlan’s script that sets the layers for the ensemble to play, it’s Morrison’s delicate, straight-forward direction that lifts it to something special. With only hints of music outside the opening and closing, Morrison lets his acting talent play it straight, making for a rounded set of presences. Along with the editing, it makes for a human tale. The cuts time and again could arrive a beat earlier to make a character appear goofy, be it Adams reluctantly going for a carrot over a chocolate Zinger, or the quiet father (wonderfully played by Scott Wilson) looking for a screwdriver in the middle of the night. Instead, Morrison opts to linger, knowing that we all have our oddities when alone, leaving all judgments aside.
Different People, Different Moods : One of the best things a movie can do, especially one with a set cast, is when each character has a particular relationship with another. The comfort Davidtz finds with Adams goes against how she is with her mother-in-law, which is a far more raw, insecure sense. Davidtz with the aforementioned Wilson too is unique, a connection that is kind but clearly with little in common. That this goes for everybody is especially lovely.
Davidtz : If you haven’t noticed, Embeth Davidtz is a key to nearly all of that works in Jungebug. A shame that even when this gem is discussed, she is rarely mentioned as a major component of its success.