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Heroes of the Zeroes: Junebug

by on June 6, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Junebug”
Rated R
2006

For a film that opened with a yodeling montage and featured a character exalted for paintings with ejaculating penises, 2005’s “Junebug” told a poetic, graceful tale about the comforts and oddities of returning home to family.

It also introduced most audiences to Amy Adams, never better than in her Oscar-nominated turn as Ashley, an unfailingly polite, hugely pregnant South Carolina girl. Adams lends Ashley such effervescence and, eventually, complex confusion that the film, like her family, feels disjointed whenever she’s not around.

She’s one of few to openly welcome brother-in-law George (Alessandro Nivola), returning home with his new wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) after years away.

Ashley’s reticent husband, Johnny (Ben McKenzie), begrudges George’s success as he toils at a replacement-china factory. Her mother-in-law (Celia Weston) finds Madeleine too hoity-toity. Patriarch Eugene (Scott Wilson) keeps quiet in his woodshop.

Director Phil Morrison knows this cast is too good to waste on something so obviously broad as a predictable clash between rubes and rich folks. There’s genuine, gentle warmth to “Junebug’s” comedy, springing forth as it does from such gestures as Johnny’s futile attempt to record a TV program about meerkats for Ashley.

And at every moment when “Junebug” could choose dramatic cliché, even with the pregnancy, it’s beautifully subtle. As Madeleine embraces George’s family, he rediscovers why he pushed them away. Meanwhile, rare elation between Johnny and Ashley provides unlikely comfort through a tough time.

Ultimately, “Junebug” practices what Eugene preaches: Family asserts itself in mysterious ways that alienate and unite.

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