Cast: Embeth Davidtz, Amy Adams, Benjamin
McKenzie, Alessandro Nivola, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Celia Weston,
Though it’s nice to see someone besides David Gordon
Green making movies about the South, Junebug’s
cast of caricatures is, in its own way, as weird and baffling as
Napoleon Dynamite’s. Some claim
that Napoleon is actually a hilarious, acute satire/portrait
of contemporary Mormon life, but to a lot of us it’s just
inexplicable. So too Junebug, which throws one well-meaning
liberal humanist British chick (Davidtz) into a
hothouse of Southern anti-hospitality.
Davidtz specializes in outsider art, so when it becomes necessary
to woo one Southern artist in person, she takes her husband of six
months (Nivola, utterly blank) along so that she
can finally meet his family. The demented artist she’s pursuing
(Frank Hoyt Taylor, a rare modern-day character
actor specializing in deep-fried Southern weirdness) is about half-an-hour
away from the house where Nivola’s family—fierce matriarch
(Weston), mild-mannered father (Wilson),
pregnant daughter (Adams) and disgruntled fiancé
(McKenzie)—barely get along. Davidtz’s
presence—struggling from the first moment to be ingratiating
and sweet, while coming across as insufferably patronizing—only
Weston has a barely concealed animosity towards Davidtz from the
start, and actually gets around to saying “She’s too
pretty, she’s too smart; that’s a deadly combination”
towards the middle. Adams (in a fiercely discomfiting performance)
worships Davidtz and abases herself before her at all times. Etc.
The house is a free-floating arena of discomfort, and the first
half of the film is an inexplicable but largely entertaining black-tempered
comedy (especially from the enjoyably surly McKenzie). But even
those modest pleasures evaporate in a second half filled with dramatic
confrontations and lots of short-story-esque symbolism; the leap
to relevance doesn’t work.
Morrison’s approach is weirdly theatrical, staging tense
confrontations in cramped rooms while people glance longingly to
a place just off-screen. Other times the camera travels through
empty roads and rooms, and Morrison removes all sound (ambient and
otherwise). Generally he sucks the life out of the proceedings,
but it’s hard to understand why anyone would really act this
way at all, so it doesn’t matter to begin with. Between its
sniveling, unlikeable heroine and the not-particularly feisty types
she faces off with, Junebug is a bewildering journey to
nowhere in particular; it feels as out-of-place and annoying passive
as its protagonist.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...