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.
And all in all, I enjoyed Junebug although I found it to be a flawed film.
With Junebug, there are a lot of characters, perhaps one too many. Although a very small scale film, Junebug puts all its focus on the characters but there are a bit too many too fully keep up with. While Junebug's central focus is on Madeline Johnsten as she meets her husband's family as well as Ashley Johnsten as she deals wither pregnancy and the relating issues that come with it, and those two are the most interesting characters. But at the same time Junebug attempts to tell the stories of the judgmental mother Peg Johnsten and her reserved husband Eugene as well as their sullen and resentful son Johnny who is married to Ashley but neglects her and doesn't display respect or care for her. Junebug keeps its focus mostly on the more interesting characters, but there are still a few too many to really be able to easily understand and fully keep up with. I found myself confused with attempting to keep up with all of the characters and found that the focus of the story was shifting between them all a bit. And although that captures the awkward atmosphere of coming to terms with being introduced to a family after marrying into one, the slow pace of the film comes into contact with its constantly shifting focus which makes it a little dull at times. Junebug is still an admirable and entertaining film which is touching and dramatic as well as featuring a clever touch of comedy at times, but the relevance of all the characters isn't too easy to keep up with because although the characters in the story are meaningful, the focus between them is constantly shifting. So Junebug is a bit of a scattered film. It is ambitious, but is a little loose in certain areas.
Still, Junebug is an entertaining film. Junebug is a slow feature, but it is really easy to watch because the script in the film is intelligent and dramatic enough with a light touch of comedy so that it finds a balance between the two genres and works as a lighthearted story. It is very well written and the screenplay harnesses the concepts that it presents to the film well enough for it to be sufficiently entertaining in an intelligent and yet relaxed manner. Junebug is a really gentle film, but that doesn't mean that it is lazy because it honestly deals with the dramatic dynamics of its characters in a way which isnt melodramatic but is strong enough to make some kind of emotional impact on the viewers.
Junebug is a simple film, a nice small scale one which is character focused and serves largely to present opportunities to its cast of actors which is great because most of the appeal in Junebug comes from its cast.
Amy Adam's gives the best performance of the film and one of the finest of her career. For most of the time she is a genial presence simply because of the fact that she has a delightful friendly charm to her and because she is a very pretty woman, so she makes a compelling effort and it is easy to sympathise for her character. She has a delightfully charming energy to her which makes her practically impossible to dislike even though she is a very naive and talkative figure, and she has a smile that simply lights up the screen whenever she is present. But as the story progresses into its second act, the material becomes a lot more dramatic and it requires Amy Adams to be more than simply charming. As her character Ashley Johnston has to come to terms with loss and motherhood, Amy Adams perfectly deals with the drama so incredibly that it is painfully realistic in how she faces the material. The kind of events that Ashley Johnston deals with is very tricky material and in a film it is difficult to execute it right without being melodramatic, but in her wisdom as an actress Amy Adams takes it on just fine and gives a performance which deservingly scored her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Embeth Davidtz manages to give a good leading role. While her character isn't the most interesting figure, she does tackle the role with great realism in a performance which is friendly as well as restrained enough not to be melodramatic. Embeth Davidtz's natural charisma in the part and her ability to interact with the other cast members very well. Embeth Davidtz's best skill in Junebug is the way that she forms relationships with other characters because the fact of the matter is that the story chronicles her as she becomes welcomed into her husband's family and learns what they are all about, and by successfully capturing the awkward demeanour of the character and the friendly nature of her which great, so she makes a fine lead actress for Junebug.
Celia Weston also gives a fine effort within her small screen time because it feels genuinely awkward to be around her due to her judgmental and unpredictable nature which means that the audience is therefore able to empathise with Madeline Johnson by feeling the same things as her.
Benjamin McKenzie also gives a fine supporting performance where he captures the self centred and introverted nature of Johnny Johnsten very well. The entire time, Benjamin McKenzie keeps to himself and essentially separates himself from the rest of the cast which reveals the mental isolation he has cast upon himself.
So although Junebug is a slow film which has a scattered focus over all of its characters and doesn't go too far, it has a lot of interesting characters thanks to a well written script which combines small scale drama with a light touch of comedy and supplies a lot of material for the cast to work with, particularly Amy Adams whose performance is breakthrough one which shows off many of her talents.