Cultures collide in ‘Junebug’

Bridget Keough

For the first few years after my family and I left Massachusetts to live in Chattanooga, Tenn., the only phrase on our minds was ‘culture shock.’ In a place where a toboggan is not a sled but a hat, and any variation of soda is referred to as a ‘coke,’ we were clearly out of our element. Not only were the landscape and weather not what we were used to, but the people were also radically different. The accents, behaviors and traditions seemed strange to us, but we all failed to consider how strange we must have seemed to our new southern neighbors.

Phil Morrison’s 2005 hit “Junebug” depicts the other side of the coin, the side which the southern customs that seemed so odd to my family are the norm, and the addition of a seemingly strange, sophisticated woman is an unwelcome one.

Madeleine, a diplomat’s daughter and an art dealer, has lived all over the globe. Her worldly nature is hardly what George Johnsten’s parents had in mind for their son to marry, and they have no problem showing it. The only member of the Johnsten family who genuinely tries to welcome Madeleine is George’s sister-in-law, Ashley (Amy Adams).

“Junebug” took less than one month to film, but the process of making the movie took more than a decade. In the early 1980s, Morrison, then a sophomore, saw a performance of dramatist and fellow Raleigh-Durham native Angus MacLachlan’s five-act play “Divertimento” staged at the North Carolina School of the Arts.

The play had a significant impact on Morrison, which lasted until years later, when both men were studying at New York University’s film school. It was then the two decided to collaborate on a project. When their student film proved a success, they decided to collaborate yet again, this time on “Junebug,” a screen adaptation of “Divertimento.” The script was written quickly, but it took the filmmakers a long time to finance the project. Meanwhile, Morrison directed commercials and music videos and worked for Comedy Central, while MacLachlan had another one of his plays staged.

Even when they had sufficient funds for the project, they had no expendable capital to hire big-name actors for the film. Embeth Davidtz, who plays Madeleine, had supporting roles in “Schindler’s List” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Since “Junebug’s” release, Amy Adams has had a supporting role in “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

Probably the most notable actor for college-age kids, especially girls, is Benjamin McKenzie of the hit show “The O.C.,” who plays George’s brother.

Despite the limited budget, the film looks anything but cheap. In fact, the restricted budget lent itself to a perfect portrayal of a small southern town. It will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for everyone else. The Monday showing only will feature CFS Publicist Elana Starr, who will provide an intro to the film and lead a discussion afterward.

For more information call the Communication Department at 9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or consult the CFS web page: