Junebug DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

A moody, thoughtful film that examines human relationships.
  • OVERALL
    3.0
    WORTHY
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A moody, thoughtful film that examines human relationships.
THE BAD
A somewhat gone over story, especially for an indy film.
THE FEATURE
Junebug is a perfect film in today's independent landscape. Like most indies, it deals with a family. In this case, George (Alessandro Nivola) and his wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) travel to Georgia on business. On this trip, George takes Madeleine on a detour through his family. It is here that the marrow in this film's bones reside. There's George's Mother (Celia Weston), a classic, nosey mother-in-law archetype. His quiet father Eugene (Scott Wilson). His troubled brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie) and his pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams). This is one of those films that starts off with everyone at odds, they somewhat come together and then by the end of the film something happens to put them on the outs again. However, Junebug is a clever enough film to not get mired in the full trappings of indy typicalness.

This is was one of those movies where I was glad to see it but at the same time I will probably never see it again. The film is thoughtful, quiet and all this seems to have become trademarks of the independent film world. Take a story, set it in someplace like North Carolina and observe the people from the outside. Something tells me we have Harmony Korine's Gummo to thank for all this. At the end of the day, Junebug is a very well done movie, but it's detached nature makes it hard for me to fully embrace it.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary Tracks

This is a commentary track with Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz. They talk about their characters, the actors on screen, the shooting conditions and just about everything else. Sadly, I found this this track to be kind of dull. It's apparent these actresses like one another, but, and I hate to put it this way, they actually seem to be watching the movie. I guess I should have expected this but I just like commentary tracks more when they are lighthearted.

Deleted Scenes

These scenes are shown with their timecode and this is actually something I appreciate. It sets them apart as things that were cut from the movie. When I see deleted scenes and they are all cleaned up and look like the movie, I can't really put them in their proper perspective. These scenes have titles like "Things Going Off," "Madeline Watches George Sing" and "We'll Just See." With a running time of 106 minutes it is understandable why these scenes were cut from the film. This movie plays just fine as is and while these scenes have their merits, they're better off being on this part of the DVD than the movie proper.

Behind the Scenes

This behind the scenes section is broken up into 5 parts. They are "Places and Faces," "Singing A Hymn," "Meerkats Gone Wild," "Ashley" and "All About Peg." While these featurettes go the extra mile in terms of providing a bit more in-depth content, they also feature the usual interviews where the actors talk about their characters. I found the "Singing A Hymn" section to be pretty interesting simply because Alessandro Nivola had no idea he was actually going to be singing.

Casting Sessions

Featuring only Ben McKenzie and Amy Adams these were interesting to watch mainly because the actors actually acted out the scenes. Usually, they just stand and front of the camera talking, but I was impressed when Ben McKenzie got to the floor and actually did what it said his character does in the script. Adams' casting session was pretty straightforward, however.

Outsider Art Photo Gallery

This is a gallery of the character David Wark's (Frank Hoyt Taylor) paintings. In real life they were painted by Ann Wood. One can watch them by flipping around with their DVD's remote control. These paintings are interesting. Their use of color is very direct even if the messages they are trying to convey (and are written on them) are a bit too overt for my tastes.
THE VIDEO
1.78:1 - Anamorphic Widescreen. This film has a bright, blown out quality to it's emulsion. As a result, this plays very much into how the actors perform their roles. This is a light film in the sense that I didn't find anything to be too harsh about any of the images being put across on screen. From how the characters were acted, to even the clothes that they wore, this movie just seemed to wistfully glide across the screen without ever leaving an imprint on the scenes before or after it. While not totally cerebral, Junebug is a character study of the highest order.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital - Mastered in High Definition. English 5.0 - Dolby Digital. Subtitled in French. Sound isn't really that big a notion on this movie's radar. It's certainly there but this is a quiet movie. There are events shown and displayed but a lot is left up to the viewers interpretations of what they are seeing. I like this and I don't like this. When it works and puts off some idea about the greater truth of humankind, I think these films are priceless. When it doesn't work... you get the picture. Junebug works well, though I am not sure it illuminates all that it thinks it does or can.
THE PACKAGE
The front cover resembles the poster that this movie utilized when it was initially released, I believe. It features a shot of Johnny and Ashley and then one of Madeleine and George. The back features two critics quotes, a description of the movie and a "Special Features" listing. Laid out around it are some shots from the movie, some of which look like promotional pictures. On the bottom portion of this cover is a cast list and some technical specs. Pretty simple packaging for a pretty simple movie.
THE FINAL WORD
I have to say that I was surprised with how good Ben McKenzie was in this movie. Hailing from the very popular show The O.C., it would be very easy to write him off as some matinee idol who's going to be cruisin' for a bruisin' once that show finishes it's run. I have to say that I don't think this will be the case. Will he become the next Tom Cruise? Most likely not, but he seems to have a certain Edward Norton quality about him that could bode well for the rest of his career. There is still a bit of a mystique about him (at least for me) so I look forward to seeing what his next big screen step is going to be.

I would say rent Junebug. It's an enjoyable film with interestingly written characters, even if it has the usual trappings we have come to expect from "these" kinds of films.

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