by Amy Diaz
Two women attempt to
relate to husbands they don’t entirely know in the charming, delightful
Junebug is a movie as
cleverly cute as the small wooden birds one of the characters in it
crafts. The action occurs almost entirely within the walls of a suburban
home in North Carolina. George (Alessandro Nivola) returns to this home
after making a life in the city to introduce his family to his new wife,
Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz). Madeleine sees their trip to his family as a
side trip in her business travel aimed at wooing an “artist” for her
outsider art gallery back in Chicago. Married six months, this couple
knew each other only a week before tying the knot. So little do they
know about each other that George doesn’t think to explain his Southern
and distrustful family nor their god-fearing ways before more or less
dumping Madeleine in their company and retiring to the comfort of his
parents’ couch. Peg (Celia Weston), George’s mother, hears Madeleine’s
British accent and takes her overtures at friendship as patronizing.
George’s dad, Eugene (Scott Wilson), likes her well enough but is a
generally standoffish guy and not likely to bridge the gap between
mother and daughter-in-law.
The only true welcome
comes from Ashley (Amy Adams), wife of George’s brother Johnny (Ben
McKenzie). Ashley bubbles with enthusiasm for all aspects of the wider
world, wanting with almost palpable hunger, to know every detail of
Madeleine’s exotic-sounding life. Just as Madeleine is fully absorbed by
her gallery to the exclusion of most other things, Ashley is heart and
soul invested in her baby, due at any moment. So totally wrapped up in
the child she hopes will serve as the foundation for her life’s meaning
is Ashley that she can’t bring herself to dwell on her husband’s lack of
interest in both the pregnancy and life in general.
What could come off as
caricatures of Southern personalities are surprisingly real and organic.
This family pulls together, to some extent, for the big life events. But
the day-to-day requirements to be there for each other seem beyond at
least one member of this brood at any given time. Bitterness, old
resentments and new uncertainties keep everyone on edge — much more like
a real family than any Steel Magnolia fairy tales.
fascinating is the relationship between Ashley (played to perfect pitch
by Adams) and Madeleine. Both seem to keep their eyes closed to certain
facets of their husbands’ characters and seem to project traits they’d
like in a husband on these men more than observe them. Their scenes
together are perfect — as though one situation (uncertain wife) is being
played out in mirror images (city mouse, country mouse).
Junebug is as darling
and clever as the name implies with characters that keep your eyes glued
to the screen.