Junebug (2005)


This is ostensibly a movie in the old, Cassavetes tradition. I’m not a fan of Cassavetes, because he wasn’t very good at being himself. But what he indicated was a certain honesty, a sure translucency of character, beings so open that we inhabit them instead of watching actors do so.

And that’s what this project presents itself as. Oh, there’s the old homecoming of the life partner to a strange and hostile family, that outside shape. But from the first scenes, the very first ones, we know this will be different. It suggests quirkiness in those first scenes, but their intent is only to force us to reset expectations.

And so we have the thing most people will see: two women in various stages of spiritual delinquency, of not knowing. One seems centred, the other almost (but not quite) comically uncentered. But there’s no mistake, this is about two bodies who don’t know their place in the solar system. So they revolve around two brothers, husbands.

Its territory that’s halfway between Sayles and Garcia, I suppose, but so raw and honest, it puts them to shame. Between these two actresses, and the opportunities the others provide, there’s lots of emotional value in this. Lots. I don’t usually recommend films that rely on this — and there are other attractive qualities I’ll mention in a minute.

But if you want a simple adventure into dangerous female territory, this is recommended.

There are two things that by themselves are engaging enough too. The first is the use of space. It is not unique, what he does. But it is rare, so very rare. And instead of sprinkled throughout, he bases the entire context on the notion of empty space that is sometimes populated with humans and their woes, only to soon again become empty. It is powerful, and used powerfully here.

The other interesting construction has to do with a special interest of mine: folding. One sort of folding has the effect of having a story within the movie such that the relationship of a character in the movie to that situation is the same as we are intended to have with the movie. Its a sophisticated device, commonly used by people who don’t understand it because it works.

So when you see someone who manages it so deftly and consciously, its worth admiration, a metaadventure.

This movie is wrapped around northern logic and poise meets the damaged, inadequate people of the south. It is a blunt stereotype that is acknowledged and then honestly exploited without humour or irony. One of our women, the one from the north, meets and admires an artist who is exactly as strange compared to the North Carolina world of the story as that world is meant to be from ours.

He paints pictures of battles and loss. Civil war. Blacks and whites, often the blacks with white faces. Swords and guns and also giant phalluses as swords and guns. Sad Angels, loss and the impossibility of being found.

Our designated lost ship is redheaded as required in deeply folded cinema. Don’t ask me why.

That’s three reasons to recommend this. I would rank it now as one of the two films of 2005 you must see. But I haven’t viewed “Cache” or “ History of Violence“ yet.

Posted in 2006

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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