Phil Morrison's Junebug is about a Chicago man returning home to North Carolina, where he introduces his new wife to his family. Curious, then, that the man occupies so little of the film. When the couple arrives in North Carolina, George (Alessandro Nivola) recedes into the background; he's absent from pivotal scenes where Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) meets his parents (Scott Wilson and Celia Watson), his brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie), and Johnny's pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams) and spends time with them.
The choice to deny us time with George, which could be spent showing more of his relationship with his new wife, or dropping further clues as to why his brother resents him deeply, is all the more puzzling considering Morrison's (and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan's) eye for characters and detail. The Southern family is not altogether pleasant, but nor are they corn-fed caricatures; Madeleine, who is on the trip mostly to recruit a Southern outsider artist for her Chicago gallery, is well-meaning and only self-centered in the most human ways. Celia Watson masters the low-key hostility of a vaguely, perpetually annoyed mother; the family's varying degrees of wariness toward their new in-law feels right, though it's rarely articulated.
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