Last night looking for a film to watch, I decided on Junebug. I was in the mood for a low-budget independent movie that was good and Junebug fits that description. I had seen the film only once, in 2005 at Lefont theatre in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. I had picked the movie at random that day as I was looking to kill some time and Junebug turned out to be a fine way to do it. I enjoyed the film the first time and enjoyed it more in a second viewing fourteen years later.

The plot of the movie could have easily been a cliched take on big city people from up north visit a small southern town and point a finger at how backwards these hicks are but this film isn't that. The disparities are obvious between the two lifestyles and there are peculiarities noted but they never originate in the need for cheap laughs.

You have the character of George and his wife Madeleine visiting North Carolina from Chicago when the air is ripe with humidity, the lawns are deep green and the crepe myrtles are blooming. Madeleine is an art gallery owner and she is interested in obtaining the rights to exhibit and represent the folk art of a southern eccentric character named David Wark (think Howard Finster from Georgia). It so happens that this artist lives near the family of George and so he and Madeleine visit and stay with his family that he only sees every so many years.

Madeleine and George

George, a business man of some sort as the film never explains, is cautious about how his family will react to his sophisticated wife and how his wife will react to them. He seems more concerned that his wife will pass judgement on him based on his family and from where he comes.

Living with George's parents are his under-achieving younger brother and his pregnant wife. George and Madeleine are still newlyweds, note none of his family were invited to the wedding, and this will be the first time everyone meets. The film is very much a character driven movie with some wonderful acting in rich characters.

Madeleine for her part does her best to reach out to George's family and not to pander to them. She has a genuine interest in who these people are but finds them hesitant to return that interest other than George's sister in law. Later in the movie, she does struggle with balancing her business interest in the folk artist and maintaining interest in her husband's family and a choice of which comes first must be made.

George and his mother.
George's father is a man of few words, almost detached from the world in a borderline state of dementia it seems, and is obsessed with woodworking. He enjoys building wooden birdhouses and birds and has built a cradle for the grandchild on the way.

His mother is played by Celia Weston. This character is the chain smoking, strong-willed southern woman that likes a very tidy house and she dominates everything that goes on inside it. Celia Weston's acting is incredible in this role and she made the most of every scene that she was given.

The movie only cost a $1 million to make and was a sleeper that did turn a modest profit at the box office. Large sums of money does not mean quality as you can see from almost every movie produced in Hollywood with ridiculous budgets. A film such as Junebug again proves that independent film-making on a small budget doesn't mean poor quality. Though released in 2005 this almost feels like the independent films of the 1990s that I love. It could just be that cell phones rarely appear in this movie and social media does not exist yet.

The film would garner a Oscar nomination of Best Supporting Actress for Amy Adams who plays the pregnant sister in law of George. Adams was excellent in the character that talks incessantly and is eternally optimistic and curious about life. Her performance steals the movie though I think Celia Weston as the mother might have been better but her character is not as likeable.

Some might think that the accent of Frank Hoyt Taylor, playing the role of the eccentric artist, is overdone and is a horrible imitation of the southern accent. However, there are many varieties of the southern accent as I have mentioned before. His accent in the movie is one you would hear in the mountains of the Appalachians. I would hear this accent fairly often where I grew up in the foothills of the mountains in Georgia. The actor playing the character was born in southwestern Virginia so I would say he would know how this accent correctly sounds. Another example of this accent is how Levon Helm sounds in the role of Loretta Lynn's father in the film The Coal Miner's Daughter set in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

I saw much of what I had seen or experienced as a southerner from a small town, turned big city inhabitant represented in this movie. Present in the film is the influence of small town religion, the complicated parental relationships, sibling rivalry, the detachment from one's roots where you harbor some inadequacy that exists in direct conflict and with a duality of a pride in where you come from and where you've escaped to as an adult and this film manages to confront these issues without mockery.

This is one of the better films that relies on the juxtaposing of city and rural people and their differences. It doesn't fall into the traps of mockery, exploitation or pandering that most television shows and films seem to lazily follow like a bad recipe. The writer of the film Angus MacLachlan, from North Carolina, displays a respect for his characters and the lives they lead whether they work in a warehouse like George's brother or are Chicago gallery owners. So forget all the nonsense horseshit of blue-state versus red-state and watch this intelligent film full of nuance.

When the films ends, you realize that a person might sometimes miss their hometown and might find a need or reason to visit but you are reminded in the end why you left to begin with though some part of you will never leave it. As George and Madeleine drive way to return to Chicago, George shakes his head in amazement and says, "I'm so fucking glad we're outta here."