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JUNEBUG

Director: PHIL MORRISON

USA • 2005 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 107 MIN.


FED UP WITH MANUFACTURED DRAMAS OFFERING TRITE HOMILIES AND CONTRIVED CONCLUSIONS? THIS TREASURE OF A DEBUT FEATURE IS FOR YOU THEN.
It starts out as though we’re in for city slickers versus country bumpkins, as Chicago gallery curator Embeth Davidtz, who specialises in ‘outsider’ folk art, uses a trip to rural North Carolina to snap up the works of an eccentric/genius local painter as an excuse to meet her new husband Alessandro Nivola’s downhome family. While mom (Celia Weston) takes an instant dislike to her golden boy’s choice of bride and the left-behind younger brother (Benjamin McKenzie) seethes with resentment, the latter’s pregnant childhood sweetheart (Oscarnominated Amy Adams) treats Davidtz like a visiting movie-star. With misunderstandings escalating, the scene is surely set for emotional carnage. Or at least it would be, if writer Angus MacLachlan and director Phil Morrison didn’t treat both sides with respect and sympathy, allowing events to unfold at characterdriven pace and giving the audience time to gauge that what you see on the surface isn’t always what’s underneath—as is the case with most families, one imagines. Although the outline recalls Five Easy Pieces, the treatment is reminiscent of an American indie Mike Leigh—wise, accurate and humane as it moves from toecurling embarrassment to moments of extraordinary intimacy. Adams’ wide-eyed innocent has garnered the acting attention thus far, but the whole ensemble is a marvel, not least brittle but well-meaning Davidtz, and the excellent Nivola, whose beaming self-confidence may not be all it appears.—Trevor Johnston.

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