" We now have discrimination down to a science "
— Ethan Hawke, Gattaca

MRQE Top Critic

Noi Albinoi

Mystery and ambivalence about this Bleak portrait of isolation are amplified on DVD —Marty Mapes (DVD review...)

Noi the Albino spends winter in Iceland alone

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What I hated about Junebug, more than anything else, was its mystical ability to produce the most pointless things. From the characters, to the dramatic ideas, as well as the unreasonable theories for human emotion; everything is just utterly pointless. Avoid at all costs.

We Surrender!

So what’s with the buzz around this film? At Sundance, Amy Adams won the Special Jury Prize for dramatic performance, while Phil Morrison was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in directing. I ask “Why?”, and the only answer I can conjure is that indie-films of this caliber are indeed starting to get recognition — recognition they don’t deserve, meanwhile the industry is slowly slipping into the seventh circle of hell. Am I surprised that ticket sales are at an all time low? Hell no, I’ve seen Junebug.

The Quirky American Indie has become respected by studio insiders looking for the next hot young thing. Audiences are maybe a little too dazzled or gullible, and when they see the style, they mistake it for actual quality.

Maybe the reason slobbering drunk movie critics are humping this film is the desperate yearning for refreshing concepts, directors, actors, or just something the audience can breathe in as we stick our head out of the remake/sequel infested waters the film industry is treading. But Junebug is not helping the industry in the least bit. If anything, it is making things much worse. Hopefully, after this film has put everyone in the audience into either a fit of hysterics or a deep sleep, the independent film scene will be able to wake up and smell the roses.

Southern Boredom

The film begins with world-class, sophisticated art dealer Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz, Schindler’s List), and her new husband, George Johnsten (Alessandro Nivola). They met at an art show and were promptly married a few weeks later. They reside in Chicago, and when Madeleine has to investigate an outsider artist in North Carolina, they decide to visit George’s family who live in the same area they are going to. Madeleine hasn’t met her new groom’s family yet, so it’s very exciting! Who knows what crazy things will happen when this independent city mouse gets mixed in with those crazy Republican country mice!

Expecting lots of drama? Well you got it, but don’t expect it to make any sense or resemble anything that would actually happen. First off, the artist that Madeleine is sent to meet is completely bat-shit crazy. He specializes in painting Civil War portraits that include naked soldiers having orgasms, while also having an unnatural passion for fruit baskets. That concept is kinda funny, but there is no laughing in this picture.

After dealing with him, they finally go to meet George’s family. Right off the bat, his mother hates her for reasons that are unknown, and remain unknown for the duration of the film. And why not? Madeleine is a beautiful, successful, nice and caring woman, something a mother would hate to see her son bring home, right? George’s brother, Johnny, is a bitter and miserable asshole who also has just been married. His wife, Ashley (Amy Adams), also lives there with them and is expecting a baby at any moment.

Ashley and Madeleine hit it off right away. They are both newlyweds, and Ashley is completely fascinated with Madeleine’s city life. Don’t get fond of their relationship; it ultimately goes no where. Johnny is upset that Ashley is pregnant, so he sulks around for most of the film, being unpleasant and doing nothing but upsetting his family. His misery is dreadfully contagious, especially to the audience. You’ll hate him, and hate the film for making you feel such hate.

Also, a grueling subplot is brought in when George’s father loses his screwdriver. We watch throughout the film while he looks for it. Sometimes we watch him look where he has already looked. Major Spoiler: The screwdriver is found.

Stinkbug

Regarding director Jim Morrison’s Grand Jury Prize nomination; I find this totally preposterous for many reasons. He brings nothing to the table that some amateur soap opera director couldn’t do for us. In the press release, he talks about how “transcendent” moments make good films. These are scenes that have a special meaning and feel, that capture you and make you remember a film. Too bad there are none to be found in Junebug. Coincidentally, the reel broke in the middle of the film, and we lost one minute of screen footage in the process. That could have been that transcendent moment Jim was searching for, but I doubt it.

Next, Amy Adam’s performance; Did she deserve that Special Jury Prize? I don’t know, I can’t compare her to all the other actresses, but I can say that she does a decent job. If her character was meant to be an annoying and unnaturally charismatic person, then she’s gold. Playing a not-quite-believable human being is probably hard, and she succeeds, which earns this film the extra half star.

As for the rest of the film, I don’t buy it. I don’t buy the characters, their problems, or the solutions. And solutions are rare in this picture. In fact, the only conclusion that’s presented in the whole disaster would have to be the discovering of the hidden screwdriver. Other than that, we get no closure on anything that happens. Things just happen — they happen slow and painfully, and you soon discover — for no reason.

My heart weeps for cinema as I reflect upon the film, and I haven’t been more bored and ticked off at a movie in a while. It’s a shame it had to be made, and many people will probably disagree with my opinion, but ultimately, I can tell this movie is doomed at both pleasing the audience and the ticket booths.

  • Henry Kearney: Thank you for your prescient review of "Junebug". I rented it as a DVD based upon glowing reviews by some major critics...My wife and I hated all the characters..and the tone of the movie...and couldn't bear to watch it to its conclusion. Wish I'd read your review before wasting money on such a lousy film. January 7, 2008 reply