“I was rooting for you to win the Oscar… in Japan.”
“You were not.”

The Rounded Figure

Chicago newlyweds George and Madeleine Johnston (Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz) try to kill two birds with one stone.

Destination: the semi-rural town of Pfaftown, North Carolina.

Bird #1: Art dealer Madeleine must entice a local artist (Frank Hoyt Taylor), who paints peculiar depictions of naked soldiers in Civil War battles.

Bird #2: Hang out since the town also happens to be George’s old stomping ground.

The couple settles in George’s childhood house and for the first time, Madeleine meets her husband’s parents (Scott Wilson and Celia Weston), his younger brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie), and his pregnant sister-in-law Ashley (Amy Adams).

Watching “Junebug” seems like an entry to a foreign world, because movies rarely get this intimate with a small Southern town. Characters are more inspired from real life, rather than assembled out of simple folk stereotypes. In fact, the most conventional part belongs to Davidtz’s Madeleine. She’s a refined woman who accepts her role as an outsider and attempts to bridge the cultural gap. And yet, as cultured, as intelligent, as well-rounded she is, Madeleine fails to get it, whatever “it” might mean.

I think this movie’s cast is just terrific. The most notable performer is Amy Adams as the most glowing pregnant woman ever put on screen. I know I’m supposed to choose from heavy-handed overdramatic roles, but this has got to be my favorite performance of the year. Adams plays the rounded figure Ashley as a wide-eyed, childlike chatterbox. I haven’t seen an actor so refreshing to watch since Johnny Depp played Jack Sparrow in that pirate movie. It’s that good. As the cranky Johnny, Benjamin McKenzie (Welcome to NC, bitch!) dons a mustache to age his baby face. He does a pretty good job, in part because the character is written so well. I like what screenwriter Angus MacLachlan has crafted here. His characters have a ring of truth to them and it’s odd to see them in a make-believe world of cinema.

Grade: A

CAST
Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Ben McKenzie, Scott Wilson, Celia Weston, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Joanne Pankow, Beth Bostic, Tarra Jolly
Screenplay by
Angus MacLachlan
Directed by
Phil Morrison
Rated R for sexual content and language
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