So, I finally Netflixed Junebug (I just decided that “Netflixed” can be a verb), a film whose preview I saw a few months ago at Kimball’s, the coolest downtown artsy theater in Colorado because it serves up pints from the local brewery a few streets over, fresh Colorado goodness in a plastic cup.
That’s totally beside the point, but if you are ever in town and looking for a good ale, now you know.
Anyways. I really liked Junebug. As wholeheartedly as I support the concept, independent/artsy films are sometimes a mixed bag. You’ll go, dole out your bucks, and get something like Dancer in the Dark or Broken Flowers, both of which I distinctly did not like. But sometimes you get a quirky little gem like Junebug. It was a small film, nothing earth-shattering, but simple in its fleshed-out portrayals of interesting characters, and affecting in quiet ways.
One of the things I found most moving about the movie was actually the silences. Several times during the film the directors just showed a silent, ordinary room in the suburban house (where most of the movie takes place) for several long seconds. They’re not afraid to have a prolonged, silent view of the everyday ephemera, almost as if the house was waiting for the next scene, waiting for someone to come in and end the awkward silence. I loved it as an effect. The quiet rooms in the house were almost aching to be heard, the silence was deafening – which paralleled so many of the characters in the film; almost everyone seemed to have so much more to say than what they actually said.
Junebug also offers some superb acting performances. Amy Adams was a gem in this film, playing a pregnant and oft-ignored very young housewife, bright and overly-talkative, masking a consuming and desperate need to be heard and loved. She deserves the Oscar nomination she received for bringing depth to a character that could have just been played as a shallow and comic/tragic ditz.
Alessandro Nivola (love the way that name rolls off your tongue) is steadfast and kind in his role of older brother/husband/rescuer/good guy. He is kind of the glue that holds everyone together when he returns home to North Carolina from the Big City (Chicago) with his new wife. He convincingly shows the different layers to growing up and leaving your roots, but also keeping them as part of you. I was also surprised by his clear singing voice and the good job he did performing a hymn for the role at a church social.
It also features Benjamin McKenzie, best known for his sullen and brooding role as Ryan on The O.C. (so I’ve heard. I’ve never watched the show. Not even that one time). This role is not that much of a departure for him in terms of angst, but he rednecks-it up so that it took me about 20 minutes to recognize him. He convincingly plays a guy drowning inside, not sure how to reach out and be heard and understood by those who are supposed to be closest to him.
Little things in this movie spoke volumes for me. Amy Adams’ character loves meerkats (favorite animal, darkly comic moment as she explains this). She is married in the movie to Johnny (McKenzie). Watching his panicked and frustrated attempts to tape something for her that suddently comes on the TV about meerkats was surprisingly poignant. He doesn’t know how else to show her how he feels, he certainly doesn’t tell her. Also, the passionate sex between Nivola and his new wife on the air mattress while the rest of the house sleeps on the other side of very thin walls was also affecting in incising just how unhappy the others were. It is a bit hard to explain in writing, because these are such small and insignificant things, but it is masterful, quiet, and evocative on the screen.
The movie features an original score by Yo La Tengo, which I enjoyed, and revives a light-hearted ’70s pop song for its opening and closing credits. If you’ve seen the movie (or even if you haven’t), you might enjoy hearing this again:
“Harmour Love” – Syreeta
It would be good for a mixtape to listen to while you are practicing your backwards roller-skating at the roller rink. Sweatbands and legwarmers are, as always, completely optional.