DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Junebug

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Jan 22, 2006.

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  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    [​IMG]
    Junebug[​IMG]

    US Theatrical Release: August 3, 2005 (Sony Pictures Classics)
    US DVD Release: January 10, 2006
    Running Time: 1:46:30 (28 chapter stops)
    Rating: R (For Sexual Content And Language)
    Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    Audio: English DD5.0 (Extra Features: English DD2.0)
    Subtitles: French (Extra Features: None)
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None)
    Menus: Not animated.
    Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert has a Junebug poster image on one side and cover art for other Sony Pictures Classics titles on the other.
    MSRP: $26.96

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3.5/5

    Once in a while, when we're lucky, a film will develop a character beyond a Hollywood archetype. If the stars are truly aligned just right, then that character will feel real; more like someone you might meet than like a caricature designed for dramatic effect. Junebug is a rare treat: a movie that's full of characters who could pass for actual people. While it doesn't always put them in the most interesting situations, they are inherently interesting enough to carry it.

    On its face, Junebug is a stock fish-out-of-water story. Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) is a sophisticated Chicago art gallery owner who takes an interest in "outsider art," work created by off-the-beaten-path artists who exist far outside the mainstream art world. At a fundraiser art auction, Madeleine meets George (Alessandro Nivola), who's come to Chi-town to escape his rural North Carolina family. In a frenzy of devil-may-care abandon, they marry following a whirlwind one-week romance.

    But George is not the fish out of water. By coincidence, Madeleine is trying to sign David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor), an eccentric artist who lives near George's relatives in Winston-Salem -- the perfect excuse for a road trip. The two city slickers hop in a car and make their way to Carolina. Madeleine isn't quite sure what to expect, but George knows what he'll find as surely as if it had already happened (and it probably has).

    George's parents, brother, and sister-in-law await them at the family home. Johnsten Matriarch Peg (Celia Weston) has something to say about everything, and it's usually critical. She's the outwardly stong one who wears the pants in the household. Eugene (Scott Wilson), George's dad, and Johnny (Ben McKenzie), his younger brother, are both extremely quiet, but in very different ways. Eugene is even-tempered and mellow, occasionally humming a tune and never getting confrontational. Johnny, on the other hand, seethes with frustration. He constantly seems to be struggling to come up with the words to express his feelings, and more often than not communicates curtly or not at all. When Madeleine enters the room, or even when her name comes up in conversation, his first instinct is simply to leave. To him, she represents his brother's escape from their static existence, and it makes him uncomfortable.

    The family is rounded out by Ashley (Amy Adams), Johnny's young wife. Not so long ago, they were blissful high school sweethearts -- now they are on the verge of becoming parents. Johnny is confused and avoids talking about the baby entirely. Ashley, on the other hand, is incredibly excited and can't stop talking about her pregnancy and impending motherhood. Always bubbly and smiling, Ashley contrasts starkly with the rest of the household. She remains staunchly optimistic, regardless of the situation. The most negative comment she can muster is "God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way."

    Interestingly, George is perhaps the least fleshed-out of the major characters. There must be something there that attracted Madeleine, but it is as though he knows that most things are best left unsaid in the presence of his family. Madeleine, on the other hand, is overly talkative around the Johnsten clan. As an art-world hobnobber, she is used to chatting away, and she tends to be earnest with her thoughts. Many of the locals don't really approve of her, and the fact that she often looks at them like a nanny might look at her charges doesn't help. She seems to find everyone quaint, and doesn't always understand their less sophisticated ways any more than they understand her more affected manner.

    These are challenging roles, and the cast is uniformly up to the challenge. Special mention should be made of Amy Adams, who practically steals the show and is certainly the center of attention in most of her scenes. The film was shot around Winston-Salem, using locals as extras, adding to the authenticity.

    Junebug is not really concerned with a main plotline or with neat resolutions. Its focus is more on simply portraying the characters and their relationships. It understands that family issues can be experienced over the course of a brief visit but aren't likely to go anywhere, even if a standard plot would require them to wrap up. Even a climactic confrontation between George and Johnny doesn't really take them anyplace new. Nor is the film suffused with a positive or negative outlook on the world -- just like reality, it includes comedies and tragedies of varying importance. As these events come and go, life goes on, even if people are changed by them. Of course, the knock on the film is that these themes don't necessarily make for the most exciting movie. That lack of excitement is enhanced by the film's leisurely pace, which matches its folksy Southern setting. It won't appeal to everyone, but Junebug certainly succeeds in what it sets out to do.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3.5/5

    Colors are rich and realistic, with deep blacks and true flesh tones. The image shows good detail. Much of the film displays no edge enhancement or other digital flotsam at all, although it does appear from time to time, as does a small amount of flicker. However, many scenes look nearly perfect, with nicely reproduced film grain that only occasionally devolves into artifacting in the digital domain.


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5

    The soundtrack is almost entirely front and center, with incidental music occasionally showing up in the front and rear right and left channels. Dialogue is crisp and clear, with nearly all effects being simply the Foleyed sounds of people hanging around the house.


    THE SWAG: 2.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Commentary with Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz

    The commentary is not terribly exciting. There are a few interesting tidbits about the production, but mostly it's "oh, that set was so great" and "I loved working with him" and "this part was GENIUS!" It would have been nice to hear from the writer and the director about where they got their ideas.

    Deleted Scenes (21:16)

    Ten deleted scenes are included, in non-anamorphic widescreen. Most of them are just extensions of existing scenes, and while there are a few funny bits, they don't add much of substance.

    Behind The Scenes

    Five separate featurettes are included in non-anamorphic widescreen. They mainly consist of cast members talking over film clips and behind-the-scenes footage. They're OK, and some of the character discussion is interesting, but they won't knock anyone's socks off.

    Places And Faces (3:33)

    Amy Adams leads a walking tour of the Winston-Salem shooting locations, plus a local TV crew briefly interviews writer Angus Maclachlan.

    Singing A Hymn (5:24)

    Alessandro Nivola talks about singing a hymn in the church supper scene. We also see him training with his vocal coach and the live filming of the scene.

    Meerkats Gone Wild (3:06)

    Ben Mckenzie talks about bringing Johnny to life. Some behind-the-scenes footage of his battle with the VCR is included.

    Ashley (2:37)

    Amy Adams discusses her experience working on the film.

    All About Peg (2:50)

    Now it's Celia Weston's turn to tell us her story.

    Casting Sessions

    Amy Adams' (13:58) and Ben McKenzie's (7:18) auditions are provided. Each includes multiple run-throughs of a single scene. They're neat for a while, but they go on and on and on.

    Outsider Art Photo Gallery

    Ann Wood, a professional artist, worked with director Phil Morrison to create David Wark's paintings. This 32-page slide show includes about 10 paintings plus close-ups of notable details. (If you look at these before watching the film, be warned -- some of them are rather disturbing.)

    Trailers

    Eight trailers are included. The trailers for Capote and Thumbsucker play automatically when the disc is inserted. They may be skipped.
    • Capote (2:11) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • Breakfast On Pluto (1:53) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • The Memory Of A Killer (1:42) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • Thumbsucker (1:25) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • 2046 (1:54) (DD2.0; 2.40:1 anamorphic)
    • Heights (1:52) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • The Squid And The Whale (2:32) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • The Tenants (2:10) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)

    SUMMING IT ALL UP

    The Way I Feel About It: 3.5/5
    The Way I See It: 3.5/5
    The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5
    The Swag: 2.5/5


    Junebug is a solid film as an ensemble character study, even if it doesn't follow the usual Hollywood conventions. At the end, the viewer feels as though he's gotten to know several people, but not necessarily experienced a standard-structure story. The A/V quality of the disc is very nice, and there are a number of extra features, although they probably could have been more interesting. It's a good choice for something independent and a little different.
     
  2. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    I have to say, Amy Adams performance in this is more than enough reason to rent if not buy it. Easily the best performance of last year, one of the best performances in a long time. The film is very good too.

    I didn't see it theatrically, but did it appear the framing was a bit tight? In the opening credits, and in a few scenes, the credits and some of the people are off the edges of the frame. May have been intentional, but I wasn't sure.

    And it looks like I missed those Behind the Scenes extras. I saw the deleted scenes and the Casting Sessions (Adams scene is fascinating to watch), but missed the featurettes. I've already returned it to Netflix.
     
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    I think the tight frame during the opening credits was intentional. I would guess that some of the other tight framing was due to the fact that the interiors were mostly shot in actual houses as opposed to sets, so getting camera angles was tough.

    I agree about Amy Adams -- even though this wasn't a widespread release, so many critics are talking about her performance, she could manage an Oscar nom. That would be great!
     
  4. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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  5. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

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    Amy Adams is indeed something special in this movie. Outstanding performance, IMHO.
     
  6. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Easily one of the very best American films I've seen this year, and I couldn't agree more about Amy Adams. The fact that her performance stands out among so many great performances (including the incomparable Celia Weston) really speaks to her brilliance. I'm embarrassed to say I'd never heard of her before, but I'll certainly be watching for her again. (And check out her imdb bio for a larf.)

    I love, love, love, love this movie. It's the sort of pitch-perfect flick that makes you wonder why all the other movies seem so crappy and forgettable. And while I don't really want to call anyone out, this movie succeeds in all the areas that similarly-themed "The Family Stone" fails.
     
  7. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Just for kicks, here's the capsule review of The Family Stone that I wrote last year:



     

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