Junebug is a new film by Phil Morrison. I have had the opportunity to not only read the screenplay but see the movie about 6 months ago before it was complete. Last night I saw it on the big screen at the New York premier. For a group of people, who have never made a movie before, they did a pretty damn good job. Maybe that’s why it is good.
The movie takes place in North Carolina. The prodigal son comes home from Chicago with his new bride (who the family has yet to meet). Madeleine, the wife, played by Embeth Davidtz, is an art gallery owner and she and her husband, George, the prodigal son, go down to the area where he happens to be from, so she can represent this crazy artist.
They go to George’s home, he hasn’t been home in 3 years, to stay with his parents, his brother and his newly pregnant teenage bride. Amy Adams, who plays the bride, Ashley, is incredible. The screen lights up when she comes on. Ben McKenzie, yes from the OC, plays the down and out son and teenage husband, Johnny. He is not a happy guy.
The movie stays with you after you leave. The contrasts between the 2 from Chicago, the wife that has traveled the world over, and the simple suburban god-loving family is vast. Truly god-loving. They do praying everywhere. There is a scene where the whole family goes for a big potluck at the Church which is brilliant. A bird’s eye view of life in rural suburban North Carolina. Yet for all the simplicities of life, there is an underlying tension of anger and frustration from all the characters whose lives are and will always be permanent in North Carolina. There is obviously resentment built up between Johnny, George, his parents and his new bride but he just grunts instead of being able articulate his feelings. The one scene where he finally lets his anger show is when he throws a wrench at his brother, George. Nothing comes of it. They both acknowledge it and move on.
Even though we do spend some time with Madeleine and the artist, who gives you more insight into the world of North Carolina. The ultimate theme is about family. Whether you like them or not, they are your family. You didn’t pick them, they came as part of the package. Even though you might have moved out of the nest into the world that you were always looking for, you always have to go back in some way and deal. Where you come from is still a big part of who you are even though you tried to hide it in your new world. Nature vs. nurture?
The movie also really well shot. You could feel the air outside while you were sitting at the kitchen table.
It has been fun to watch the movie grow from the sidelines. First stop was Sundance where Amy Adams was given the award for best new Actress. Then Sony Classics picking this film up to bring to an indie theater near you. This opens up at the Angelica and Lincoln Center this week. If you get a chance, go see it. It is really a great little film.