Monday, September 26, 2005

Insert Thomas Wolfe cliche here: "Junebug"

I have to admit, I thought Pfafftown was made-up.

That's the North Carolina town where most of "Junebug" takes place, and its name actually is among the funnier things in the movie. A critics darling that did well at Sundance, "Junebug" seemed to have a lot of potential when me and the missus ventured to the cinema Sunday. Alas, I found it only somewhat quirky and mostly boring.

Perhaps that's a little harsh -- "it's a little harsh" -- but when a small movie gets talked up, I expect big things. I recalled raves for Amy Adams, to-this-point known for her small role as Leo's wife in "Catch Me If You Can," and she was pretty good. But other than a few touches here and there, not much impressed me beyond Adams, and that's a shame.

Our story has some guy now living in Chicago joining his art dealer wife while visiting a kooky artist in North Carolina. (Now he was pretty funny.) And oh-by-the-way, the guy's family lives in a small town nearby, so the dealer woman -- with a pseudo-British, to boot -- gets to meet her in-laws, including a very pregnant sister-in-law played by Adams. Hijinks ensue.

My problem with this? Nothing with the story itself; I'm always up for awkward meetings with the in-laws. But the awkwardness here was pretty harmless, and even if I wasn't expecting Ben Stilleresque bumblings, no one really seemed to have anything to say to anyone. Maybe that's the point, but between all the silence and scenes with the camera lingering on various rooms, objects, etc., I was pretty unimpressed.

It's too bad, because there are some decent actors here. The guy at the center of this, Alessandro Nivola, was the only entertaining part of "Laurel Canyon," and even amusing in "Face/Off." Here, he's a blank, and his admonitions to his wife about "family" at the end ring hollow. The wife, Embeth Davidtz, will always remind me of "Army of Darkness." ("You found me beautiful once." "Honey, you got real ugly.") That's one reason I couldn't take her seriously. The other is because I simply couldn't believe she was that dense when it came to reading her in-laws.

Other than Adams, the only sort-of bright spot was her husband, played by some guy named Ben McKenzie. Apparently he's a big wheel on "The O.C.," but it's probably good that I've never seen that show because I might not have bought him as a dolt who packs plates for a living after knocking up his girlfriend. He was blank in a better way that our man Alessandro.

Like I said, maybe I just didn't get it. I'm sure it's a great look at small-town Carolina, as well as the clash of cultures when people get married. But ... well, it just wasn't that interesting. But who knows, maybe the story will pick up steam in "Junebug 2: Junebug's Bogus Journey."


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