A funny and touching indie comedy and character study, "Junebug" opens with couple Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) and George (Alessandro Nivola) deciding to head from their upscale Chicago surroundings to North Carolina. She's heading there to meet up with an artist, David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor), who she could highlight in her gallery. He's heading there because the new couple have been together for a few months and she's yet to meet his family.
When she finally arrives, it's not exactly what she bargained for. Her mother (Celia Weston) is hostile to her new big-city visitor for the most part, and can't be bothered with her the rest of the time. Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie), her brother, is irritable and dismayed at the disruption. Her father, Eugene (Scott Wilson), appears to have had enough of the tension in the household and tries to stay to himself. The only one that greets Madeleine with any sort of pleasantry is Ashley (Amy Adams), Johnny's hyper, good-natured, pregnant wife, who hangs on Madeleine's every word.
Rather than try to create the expected jokes out of the culture clash, "Junebug" doesn't judge, and successfully entertains by providing a fly-on-the-wall, low-key look on how these characters - both couples and family members - interact differently with one another, and the unspoken issues that linger beneath the surface. Sometimes, comedy - whether it be a chuckle at something familiar (the sight of an air mattress blowing up gets a laugh) or a laugh at a sweetly awkward moment - comes out of it. The drama that's weaved into the second half often operates in the same quiet fashion, growing out of pauses of silence and other subtle moments.
The script is superb, but the performances compliment it so perfectly. Adams has gotten the most praise, and her work here is certainly impressive. Full of genuine hope and light, her Ashley is a wonderful portrayal of a young woman yearning to find out more about what the outside world has to offer her. She gets into the character so fully and, impressively for a character like this, she keeps the character grounded and believable. She's surrounded by a legion of excellent supporting efforts, especially Weston and Nivola.
Overall, the leisurely paced "Junebug" was a pleasant surprise: a movie that offers superior performances, but those performances are working in a movie made up of minor observances and small moments while we watch these characters come together and come to some realizations and maybe letting some issues linger on.
VIDEO: "Junebug" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is quite pleasing, as despite a slight softness present at times, the picture mostly appeared detailed and crisp. Aside from the slightly inconsistent defintion, other issues weren't noticed: no artifacts were spotted, nor were any instances of edge enhancement or print flaws. Some minor grain was seen at times, but I'm guessing it's an intentional element of the photography. Colors looked natural and nicely saturated, with no smearing or other issues. Overall, this remained an above-average presentation.
SOUND: "Junebug" is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. The film's audio hardly puts the surrounds to use, nor does it need to. The rear speakers come into play for a couple of minor instances of ambience and score reinforcement, but the audio is otherwise forward-oriented. Dialogue remained crisp and clear, with no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: Actresses Embeth Daviditz and Amy Adams provide a rather low-key commentary that is informative and occasionally fun, as the two chat about their experiences getting into the characters, the script, behind-the-scenes stories and more. Additionally, we get 10 deleted scenes, 5 short "making of" featurettes and previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Junebug" moves at its own unhurried pace, providing a fascinating look at the comedy and emotion that comes out of small moments between well-developed characters. The DVD edition provides good audio/video quality, as well as a fine group of extras. Recommended.
The Film B