Sunday, October 16, 2005

Saturday matinee

With another rainy weekend upon us, and a plea for more books from Longfellow Books in Portland, Mary and I headed into Portland. Recognizing that it had been awhile since we had attended a film at The Movies on Exchange Street, we decided to catch an afternoon matinee, the perfect foil for the blowing rain and generally inhospitable conditions, outdoors.

The movie on the matinee was Junebug, the new film from Phillip Morrison. Morrison, a NYU film graduate, has been receiving favorable reviews and generating comparisons to directors such as Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant, with his first full-length feature film.

Junebug is a story about family and place of origin. Son, George, returns to his hometown in North Carolina with his new bride, Madeline. Madeline, an art dealer, with a gallery in Chicago, where she and George met, specializes in “outsider” art. They come to George’s hometown to visit the eccentric David Wark and his collection of uniquely strange Civil War paintings and artwork. The decision is also made to visit George’s family.

Morrison captures the tension of returns to one’s birth family, with the changes that accompany growth and maturation. Can one ever truly go home again—yes, but not without awkwardness and the realization that life is more than black and white choices.

George’s family and Morrison’s character study is refreshing. Avoiding clich├ęs, without denying that they exist, the film captures the interesting family dynamic that exists for most of us. Madeline, British-born and sophisticated, does her best imitation of accommodating daughter-in-law. George’s mother, however, views Madeline with suspicion, bordering on contempt. George’s younger brother, Johnny, is an angry, brooding character, whose pregnant wife, Ashley, is so happy to have a new friend in Madeline.

The movie shows George’s rural roots, deeply steeped in the church, with a poignant scene of a church supper, where his former pastor asks George to sing a hymn. Probably, it's been years since George has embraced his southern Baptist faith, yet, after initial reluctance, gets up and performs an impassioned version of a well-known Christian hymn. His wife Madeline’s face is captured and you see elements of her recognition of a side of George that she hadn’t known.

With the original score for the movie written and performed by one of my favorite indie rock bands, Hoboken, New Jersey’s scenesters, Yo La Tengo, I found Junebug to be an indie film worthy of one’s attention.

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