You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


A breakthrough performance by appealing up-and-comer Amy Adams, who won a Sundance acting prize, should spark favorable press and aud awareness for "Junebug," Phil Morrison's understated dramedy about the ripple effects of a Northern yuppie's first meeting with her dysfunctional Southern in-laws.

With: Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Ben McKenzie, Alessandro Nivola, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson.

A breakthrough performance by appealing up-and-comer Amy Adams, who won a Sundance acting prize, should spark favorable press and aud awareness for “Junebug,” Phil Morrison’s understated dramedy about the ripple effects of a Northern yuppie’s first meeting with her dysfunctional Southern in-laws. But elliptical, indirect storytelling and overall muted tone might narrow indie’s appeal to more venturesome ticket buyers. A challenging but by no means impossible sell for risk-taking distribs, contemplative pic will need favorable word of mouth and critical support to thrive in theatrical rollout.

Economical early scenes establish Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) as a Chicago art gallery owner who’s briskly wooed and wed by slightly younger George (Alessandro Nivola), a hunky enigma transplanted from a small North Carolina town. (Pic was shot in and around Winston-Salem, N.C.) Months after their wedding, Madeleine plans a trip to husband’s home state to track down reclusive David Wark (scene-stealing Frank Hoyt Taylor), an eccentric artist whose bizarre paintings are even more impenetrable than his thick accent. George agrees — with conspicuously muffled enthusiasm — to join her on the trip so he can introduce her to his family.

From the start, “Junebug” establishes its m.o. of unspoken questions left teasingly unanswered (and, in most cases, unacknowledged). Why hasn’t George brought Madeleine home before now? Why wasn’t his family invited to the wedding? Why did he leave home in the first place? Helmer Morrison and scripter Angus MacLachlan merely hint at long-festering estrangement that provides an ominously percolating undercurrent throughout scenes in the modest but spacious family home.

Johnny (Ben McKenzie of TV’s “The O.C.”), George’s younger brother, reacts to his more successful sibling’s return with a mix of studied indifference and open hostility. Their parents — polite but faintly disapproving Peg (Celia Weston), taciturn and easily distracted Eugene (Scott Wilson) — warmly embrace their prodigal son, but are markedly more restrained in welcoming Madeleine. Indeed, Madeleine is greeted with unreservedly open arms only by Ashley (Adams), Johnny’s extremely pregnant young wife.

Partly due to her character’s generosity of spirit, but mostly due to her own charisma, Adams dominates pic with her appealing portrayal of a nonjudgmental optimist savvy enough to recognize the shortcomings of others, but sweet enough to offer encouragement, not condemnation. “God loves you just the way you are,” Ashley tells Johnny at one point, “but too much to let you stay that way.”

Working in less flashy mode, Davidtz impresses with her subtly detailed portrait of a career-driven sophisticate whose affability and graciousness occasionally appear condescending. McKenzie conveys all the pent-up resentment one would expect from an underemployed young man still living in his parents’ home with his pregnant wife. (A nice touch: The one time he attempts a selfless gesture for Ashley, Johnny drives himself to frustrated rage.) Weston and Wilson provide depth and detail to sketchy roles. But Nivola is hard-pressed to make sense of a character whose moods and motivations remain too opaque and arbitrary.

Shot in 16mm, “Junebug,” at least as presented in an HD transfer at Sundance, has a washed-out look that may be off-putting to auds who might otherwise enjoy the pic’s uncondescending view of Southern characters and customs. Yo La Tengo’s serviceable score is artfully supplemented with selections from Vivaldi’s mandolin concerto, the same music previously employed to terrific effect by Robert Benton (“Kramer Vs. Kramer”) and Francois Truffaut (“The Wild Child”).


Production: An Epoch Films production. Produced by Mindy Goldberg, Mike S. Ryan. Executive producers: Mark P. Clein, Ethan D. Leder, Daniel Rappaport, Dany Wolf. Directed by Phil Morrison. Screenplay, Angus MacLachlan.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm-to-HD), Peter Donahue; editor, Joe Klotz; music, Yo La Tengo; production designer, David Doernberg; costume designer, Danielle Kays; sound, Jeffree Bloomer; casting, Mark Bennett. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 28, 2005. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Ben McKenzie, Alessandro Nivola, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson.

More Film

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

  • Clark Gable III

    Clark Gable's Grandson, Who Hosted 'Cheaters,' Found Dead at 30

    Clark Gable’s grandson, Clark Gable III, died on Friday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Variety confirmed with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was 30. “It’s is with an extremely heavy heart we say goodbye to my beautiful son Clark,” his mother wrote on Instagram. “He passed this morning. I will always [...]

  • You Were Never Really Here If

    Film Independent's Spirit Awards Fly the Flag for Indie Film

    As the 2018 awards season marches slowly into its final days, only a handful of honors remain undistributed after some of the most volatile and contentious campaigns in years. Front-runners have come and gone in one major category after the next, as each guild and critics group announced different winners than its predecessors, demolishing expectations [...]

  • A Quiet Place

    John Krasinski Returning to Direct 'A Quiet Place' Sequel

    John Krasinski is returning to direct the untitled sequel to Paramount’s horror hit “A Quiet Place.” Krasinski revealed the news Friday via an Instagram post that said “…time to go back. #PartII 5-15-20”; the post showed the red lights that became synonymous with the alien threats in the first movie. More Reviews Album Review: Lil Pump's [...]

  • Red Carpet Guide to the Bowtie

    Five Tips to a Perfect Bow Tie on Oscar Night

    Warren Alfie Baker is always on the hunt for just the right bow tie. He’s a Hollywood stylist who helps keep such clients as Lucas Hedges, Norman Reedus and Harry Shum Jr. looking sharp. “It seems like the easiest thing to sort out, but so many mistakes can be made,” Baker tells Variety. More Reviews [...]

  • Francois Ozon's 'The Grace Of God'

    Francois Ozon's 'By The Grace Of God' Delivers Strong B.O. Opening in France

    Rolling off its triumph at the Berlin Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear, François Ozon’s Catholic church sexual abuse drama By “The Grace Of God” had a strong theatrical bow in France where it sold nearly 50,000 tickets on 290 screens on Feb. 20, its first day out One of the best opening [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content