Junebug : Still Great After All of These Years

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?”

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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.

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