Release Date: January 17, 2006

Junebug is an independent film and a charming human drama / character expose, which did well with critics since its release in theaters last summer. The story although well acted and with revealing moments is exactly like the lives it’s showcasing, average, but its simplicity is what helps to make it enjoyable.

The Film
North meets South when a recently married big-city art dealer (Embeth Davidtz) travels from Chicago to rural North Carolina to meet her quirky in-laws and to close a deal with a reclusive North Carolina artist. The new wife’s presence exposes the fragile family dynamics as hidden resentments and anxieties surface as she meets her husband’s tight lipped but big hearted father, bristly & insecure mother, lonely and very optimistic and energetic sister-in-law (Amy Adams) and her angry husband (Ben Mckenzie) who has a learning disability that he is ashamed of. After the two worlds meet, which happens pretty quickly, there isn’t much change in the plot, just the family members interacting and discovering each other.

The Extras
Considering this is an independent film there are surprisingly quite a few special features included on the DVD that further develop the film and its production. There is an audio commentary with the female stars of the film Embeth Davidtz and Amy Adams, 10 deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, an art gallery of the “outsider” art featured in the film, and casting sessions with Ben Mckenzie and Amy Adams, which give a rare glimpse into the development of their characters pre filming. There are of course the required previews as well–I hate the fact that DVD packagers think this is actually a special feature though.

The Delivery
The audio was mostly dialogue with minimal to no music, the quiet heightens the tension making it uncomfortable very much like the interactions on the screen, so it goes well. When there is music it’s brief fiery instrumental music. The transitions to each scene are usually abrupt or prolonged black screens, again making things uncomfortable and putting it in your face, like the film itself. The film could have easily have made fun of rural life but it doesn’t, instead it is very respectful in pointing out the differences in lifestyle and depicts their values and its characters very humanly and politely.

The Final Cut
With independent films you expect to see something edgy and artistic and this film has that, but it’s also very simple, conservative and lacks the ‘wow’ factor of many other human nature dramas, making it memorable but not outstanding. However, the acting and quirky characters make the film enjoyable and endearing in its simplicity.

The Upside:
A quirky character drama worth catching on DVD
The Downside:
The narrative is slow at times, and there’s a lot of hype around it.
On the Side:
The OC kid, Ben Mckenzie, can actually act, although it is his co-star Amy Adams, who plays his wife that might be taking home an Oscar come March 5th for Best Supporting Actress. Although she is a long shot, Ebert and Roper picked her as their favorite in their annual Attention to the Academy broadcast.

Making the Grade:
The Story: B
The Delivery: B+
The Extras: B
Overall: B

Tags: Junebug, Ben Mckenzie, The OC, Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Independent Film