Junebug (2005)

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Released 9-Nov-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Casting Sessions Amy Adams, Ben McKenzie
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 101:55
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Phil Morrison
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Embeth Davidtz
David Kuhn
Alessandro Nivola
Alicia Van Couvering
Jerry Minor
Matt Besser
Will Oldham
Frank Hoyt Taylor
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Yo La Tengo


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Junebug was an indie hit of 2005. Although the film features a range of quality performances, it is probably best known for the supporting turn by Amy Adams which won her a special Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, the best supporting female award at the Independent Spirit Festival and a 2006 Oscar nomination for best performance in a supporting role.

    It is drama with some comedy elements that combines a familiar family gathering plot with some unpredictable elements.

    Chicago art dealer Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) and George (Alessandro Nivola) are newly married after a whirlwind romance. She is a dealer in "Outsider Art" (for the non-arty this is a loose gathering of naive artists, often from prisons or asylums!) and locates a new prospect in North Carolina, near to George's family home. They decide to combine the art buying trip with a 'meet the parents' get together. As usual, things don't go too well. Father Eugene is considerate enough if a little introspective. Brother Johnny (the OC's Ben McKenzie) is the downright hostile younger brother who has grown up in the shade of his successful elder. He and his wife Ashley (Amy Adams) are expecting their first child and he has retreated into his own childish state. Mother Peg (Celia Weston) is the archetypal loving mother who deeply resents Madeleine for taking her boy away from home. Although the plot contains a few elements that raise the stakes, this is generally a gentle drama about the strong bonds and also conflicts between families. Madeleine struggles to make her own bond with the family and only succeeds with the wide-eyed optimist, Ashley. Out of the house she has a hard time convincing the artist David Wark to exhibit with her gallery and not the big boys from New York.

    By journey's end some of the conflicts have healed and some not. First time feature director Phil Morrison and first time feature writer Angus MacLachlan have created a familiar story which defies familiarity. If there is a criticism of the film it is that the characters are often too difficult to read, denying the viewer easy access through motivations and meaning. Perhaps this is the point. People and families are often inexplicable and some rifts just have to be acknowledged rather than healed. Still, some may find the opaque quality of the script a little unsatisfying. However, there is no denying the quality and attraction of Amy Adams's performance as Ashley. Whilst undoubtedly a nicely written role, she invests the part with such life and dynamism that the film dims when she leaves the screen. The part itself is so bible belt gee-whiz that there is a real feeling that a less skilled playing could have resulted in a mere caricature. The performance of Adams does elevate the film from the average to the above average. Given the somewhat inscrutability of the characters, this is a film that could be watched more than once.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Junebug comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 ratio which is close to its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. In true indie fashion the film was shot on 16 mm film and it was then digitally remastered and blown up to 35 mm for cinematic release.

    There is little evidence of its 16mm origins. The film is a small town drama with the majority of action taking place indoors. Therefore there is little need for grand vistas. The source print is in good condition and there are no noticeable artefacts. In keeping with its subject matter the colours are slightly muted, except Adams' sparkling blue eyes.

    There are no compression problems with the transfer and although I noticed a few tiny instances of aliasing, the overall quality of the transfer is excellent. Despite its origins, the grain level is minimal. There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Junebug is presented on DVD with a Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 KB/s) soundtrack. This is perfectly adequate for the film which is entirely dialogue driven. According to Alessandro Nivola in the special features, the sound was recorded live and there was no post-production dubbing. This probably accounts for the fact that at times the dialogue is difficult to hear. The lack of subtitles can be a problem in some scenes, particularly involving Ben McKenzie who mumbles in a Southern drawl. The rest of the cast are easier to understand with the exception of Frank Hoyt Taylor as David Wark, the outsider artist who utilises quazi-biblical Civil War speak, which is at times difficult to follow. My suspicion, however, is that most of what he says is crazy babble anyway! The music is by indie darlings Yo La Tengo, however the soundtrack also includes a number of classical pieces. In one stunning scene Alessandro Nivola sings the hymn Softly & Tenderly at a church gathering. In the special features he says that he had noticed in his copy of the script a single line that said "George sings a hymn". It was only the week before shooting of the scene that he realised that he would be soloing the hymn (with two backing singers) and without the benefit of post-production. A natural singer, he delivers the hymn in a way that affects all the family.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Junebug contains five types of extras. One separate extra could be the reversible slip on the DVD which has David Wark's paintings (although painted by someone else) on one side.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    An array of images from the film flash past settling on a simple image backed by a pleasant guitar theme.

Deleted Scenes 21.09

    There are a number of deleted scenes on the DVD. Some are mere snippets but there are a couple of lengthy scenes. At some stage a decision was made to have the rival art dealers as an unseen presence rather than characters in the film. The DVD includes the scene shot with these art dealers. Most probably the director cut them because they don't really add any extra depth to the character of David Wark or intensify the drama.

    Mostly the scenes are unimportant however, there is a lengthy scene where Peg, and later Ben, are pouring tea for the departing George and Madeleine. It points towards at least to some measure of further reconciliation between the characters. There is no commentary on the deletion so I can't tell why the director left it out. My suspicion is that it was felt to be too neat for a film that didn't have neatness as its prime objective.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes 16.56

    This is a five-part on-set guide to the film. Under the location segment, we are shown the two houses, across the street from each other, which operate as the internal and external sets for the film. Under the Hymn section, Alessandro Nivola takes us through the process of putting the song together and we see the performance before an audience of local church members. Ben MacKenzie is front and centre in Meerkats Gone Wild, a reference to a strange scene in the film where he becomes obsessed with videotaping a program about meerkats on TV. In All About Ashley Ashley talks about the role and her involvement in the film. It was a good laugh to see Amy Adams in her eternally optimistic Ashley wardrobe reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. In All About Peg Celia Weston explains some of the motivations behind her character and the production team talk about the joys of having such an experienced film actress on board.

Theatrical Trailer 1.54

Featurette - Casting Sessions Amy Adams 13.58 Ben McKenzie 7.18

    It is always fascinating to see actors at the early stage of their performance and in these scenes we see Amy Adams working through the production of her character. She performs a piece a few times, trying different approaches to the role. Ben McKenzie gets into the grove of his surly slacker, slouching, grumbling and shouting around the room. The DVD case also mentions an extra called Galleries - Paintings, Photos but I couldn't find it on the DVD.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  The Region 1 DVD also boasts some French subtitles, an English (Dolby Digital 5.1) soundtrack, a Commentary by Embeth Davidtz and the Outsider Art Photo Gallery.

    It would have been nice to have the commentary track although I wonder whether star Davidz said much about her finely tuned lead role being overshadowed by Amy Adams! The surround sound would not, in my view, have added much to the film but on the strength on the commentary Region 1 would have to be the preferred DVD for true lovers of this movie.

Summary

    Junebug is a sincere Indie entry into the dramatic Meet the Parents genre. It is well acted and directed with a memorable performance from Amy Adams. Despite its humble origins the DVD comes up looking and sounding quite good. The extras are fun and interesting, giving an insight into the elaborate process behind low budget productions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX - SR603
SpeakersOnkyo 6.1 Surround

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