How much does closure matter in movies? It's pretty hard, I imagine, to decide when exactly an arc ends. Does every subplot need a conclusion, or would that be too tidy? Is it only tidy if the conclusion is super happy and unrealistic? Would it solve the problem if everything got closure, whether or not that was a positive or negative thing?
I don't really have answers to these questions, but I'm asking because Junebug left a certain number of things up in the air. There's definitely some solid closure to the Johnny-Ashley marriage, and that was perfectly done. But the Johnny-George tension culminates with Johnny throwing a wrench at George's head, and they never make up for that. Is that act of violence closure? Does that mean the feud is over between them? It wasn't really conclusive. Also, arguably the most important relationship in the film, between the two main characters (Madeline and Ashley), isn't really resolved. Madeline doesn't show up when Ashley is in labor, and they never end up interacting again.
I think there were two things that kept me from outright adoring the film, and that was one of them. I suspect that the lack of total closure is by design, and the film would probably be less meaningful if everything was neatly tidied up, but I think some immature part of me will always crave big emotional conclusions. That said, I do definitely appreciate the ending we got on a logical level. If Madeline showed up and apologized for not being there when Ashley lost the baby, we wouldn't be left with the compelling portrait that we got of Madeline. Also, I like that so many pairings were showcased in the film. You might think Madeline would be the one to come in and solve all the family problems, that she'd be the one at Ashley's bedside comforting her based on the first two acts of the movie, but instead it's George. That's such an interesting choice, because George and Ashley hadn't had any meaningful interactions prior to that, and George is basically a non-character, with no discernible flaws. But that scene is so powerful, mostly because Amy Adams is amazing and Ashley is a wonderful character. And I also suspect that George was a blank slate by design, though I don't have a great explanation of why.
The other thing that kept me from loving it was that Madeline was pretty damn unlikable. That's very reductive to say, and I acknowledge that she's a good character (I wouldn't be able to like the movie as much as I did if the protagonist was a bad character). But I didn't start really getting into the movie until Amy Adams showed up. Ashley was so immediately engaging and hilarious that I almost wish she was in every scene. Madeline was just not as interesting to me.
There are so many standout scenes. I love love love the church social scene, when George reveals his religious past with his singing, and Embeth Davidtz does great work in her reaction shots, amused and curious and wondrous all at once. (I also love that the movie doesn't turn the southern community into stereotypes; I felt like I got a better sense of actual southern community than most other movie depictions of the south. And Madeline, though occasionally being pretentious and subtly condescending, still has a capacity for compassion. The characters were so realistic, never just showing one side.) Other great scenes: the aforementioned Ashley-George scene, the subtlety of the scene between Madeline and Sissy Wark, when Sissy says "I'm just so sorry for your family's loss," prompting Madeline to consider that she should be sad, too. The most emotional scenes, though, when I got chills and felt a lot of emotions, involved Johnny and Ashley's marriage. The scene with Johnny trying to record the meerkat program on the TV made me so much more emotional than I expected so early in the movie. It was just so shocking and wonderful to see that he cared about her and wanted to show her he did, and so heartbreaking when he failed to do so and just snapped at her instead. The last scene, when he suggests they try again, was also touching.
All in all, this was a great little low-key movie that delivered great performances, a lot of subtlety, and a lot of meaning.
Not truly memorable except for Adams who received an Academy nomination for her role here.
The actors help to lift the story above it's ordinaryness and cliches, but it's still only Adams who gives subtle nuance and naive hope to her characters heartbreaking plight.