Junebug

And it is excruciating  because so much is horribly familiar .. but I cant stop watching

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Embeth Davidtz plays Madeleine, an ambitious English art dealer who specialises in primitive, visionary paintings, often by people with psychological or learning difficulties: what one uncouth observer calls "retard art". She is very excited about an undiscovered genius who lives in a shack in North Carolina: gibbering, growling, talking to himself, and painting crazy battlescapes of the American civil war, a sort of Hieronymus Bosch meets LS Lowry, only with crude speech bubbles and monumentally large penises poking out of various orifices.

Madeleine simply has to sign him up and decides with her new husband George (Alessandro Nivola) to combine this with a visit to his folks, whom she still hasn't met, despite being married for six months. And of course, she opens up family wounds with George's mother Peg (Celia Weston), his resentful underachiever brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie, from TV's The OC) and, most gloriously, Johnny's garrulous and heavily pregnant wife Ashley, wonderfully played by Amy Adams. Family tensions are ratcheted up and a gripping finale at the maternity hospital discloses a poignant reason for Johnny's dislike of his brother George, and for Ashley's desperate need to be best friends with Madeleine.

The weirdo artist with his ambiguous depictions of the "nigrahs" is in a kind of unstated counterpoint to the middle-class respectability of George's mom and dad. Madeleine's willowy gorgeousness and expensively brought-up social confidence send shock waves through them all. Peg thinks she's no better than she ought to be. George's lovably shy dad Eugene, played by Scott Wilson, instinctively sees how shy and scared she is. Johnny can't wait to get out of the house and join people he considers his real family: co-workers at a packing factory.

But the person stealing the family show is the unstoppably loquacious, heartbreakingly innocent Ashley, who grabs the bemused Madeleine by the hand, pulls her into the house, babbling about their upcoming visits to the mall and girly toenail-painting sessions, and generally forces the pace of their new sisterly intimacy. It is a tremendously funny moment when she asks Madeleine where she was born: the diplomat's daughter replies "Japan" and saucer-eyed Ashley squeals "You were not!" Is she bowled over by this impossibly exotic sophistication? Or does she, in her innocence, think Madeleine is in fact Japanese? She might as well be Martian for all that they have in common. Despite being reluctant at first to come back to the family that he has left behind, George starts to settle back in, and the film's most affecting moment comes when the local pastor invites him to sing a close-harmony hymn at a local prayer breakfast. This he does: a really lovely scene which director Phil Morrison allows to play itself out at a natural rate.

This is a movie that sheds fascinating and compassionate light on families: when a stranger comes among them, each individual family member behaves atypically, strangely to them, and they become strangers to each other. It is a piece of such sweet-natured charm I did what I hardly ever do over the credits: sighed with satisfaction

 

Orangetas Orangetas
51-55, F
5 Responses Feb 15, 2010

... i do what i can.

Thank you Arorin .. always helpful

Self reflection can be a good thing if you allow it to be.

Added a review Arorin. I am finding it painful because I recognise so much from myself, family and friends .. stuff that is not so good

I don't understand.