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Junebug

Something to Holler About

Junebug opens with a middle age man engaging in a form of communication once commonly practiced in the hills of North Carolina, "hollerin". It is an amusing and telling opening shot given that Phil Morrison's film seems to revolve around the inevitable challenges in trying to communicate clearly across great divides.

Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) is a refined and sophisticated art dealer who runs an art gallery in Chicago. She is tipped off to an eccentric (but, invariably "brilliant") artist who operates out of North Carolina.

Desperate to sign this eccentric, she heads to North Carolina with her husband, George (Alessandro Nivola) in tow. Naturally, George's somewhat estranged family resides in North Carolina and reluctantly he brings Madeleine over for a visit.

What ensues is an interesting and often hilarious culture clash between the urbane and sophisticated George and Madeleine and the provincial and conservative family George eschews. Far from painting George's family as one-dimensional, backwoods oddballs, Phil Morrison beautifully constructs George's family as three dimensional characters, rather than clichés.

George's father, Eugene (Scott Wilson) is a quiet, simple man who is somewhat unsettled by the more sophisticated Madeleine, but embraces her as family, nonetheless. Benjamin McKenzie plays George's perpetually sullen and jealous younger brother, Johnny. But, the performance that really lights up the screen in Junebug is that of Amy Adams, who plays the ceaselessly inquisitive Ashley (George's sister). Ashley falls in love with Madeleine from the moment she walks in the door and peppers her with wonderfully endearing questions.

In the hands of a less capable director, Ashley might have simply appeared dumb, but Phil Morrison elicits a performance from Ashley that comes across as endearingly sweet and naïve. Ashley also has the best line in the movie, "God loves you the way you are, but not enough for you to stay that way."

In Junebug, Phil Morrison gives the audience an understated, contemplative, and beautiful film that explores the challenges of coming home to a place one would rather forget. While George and his family may be as different as night and day, love remains.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars