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Film / Junebug

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Released in 2005, Junebug is an independent comedy-drama film directed by Phil Morrison, starring Embeth Davidtz, Amy Adams, Benjamin McKenzie, Alessandro Nivola, and Scott Wilson.

Madeleine is a fancy art dealer from Chicago. She's just married a man called George, and one of her potential clients happens to live nearby to his relatives. So naturally they take a visit to North Carolina so Madeleine can meet her in-laws:

  • Peg - George's aloof and grumpy mother, who takes an instant dislike over Madeleine, and seems to favour George over her other son.
  • Eugene - the quiet and reserved father, who says very little, but acts as a Morality Pet for Peg somewhat.
  • Johnny - George's slobby younger brother - a high school dropout still living at home and studying for his high school equivalency certificate.
  • Ashley - Johnny's bubbly wife, who is pregnant. Things between the two are strained, though Ashley believes the baby will help their marriage.

The film was a surprising hit on the awards circuit and even netted Amy Adams an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. An unknown actress at the time, this marked the start of her rise to prominence.

Junebug provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Madeleine casually called Peg 'Pam' and 'Pat' at the beginning.
  • Alliterative Name: Johnny Johnsten. Junebug would have been this.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Ashley believes that the baby will solve her and Johnny's marital problems. Sadly, it didn't. But when she lost it, Johnny is seen on the phone to her asking if they could "try again".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ashley suffers a miscarriage and the character's situations aren't really resolved, but Johnny starts to show signs of caring for Ashley and George's family doesn't dislike Madeline.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three women; Peg (Blonde), Madeline (Brunette) and Redhead (Ashley).
  • Cain and Abel: George is the successful brother who has an established career in Chicago and is adored by Peg. Johnny is the high school dropout who still lives at home and is looked down on by everyone. It's heavily implied that Peg favouring George drove them apart.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ashley's love of meerkats. She firsts mentions it during her excited ramble when meeting Madeleine. Johnny tries to tape a documentary for her about them, but it doesn't really work.
  • The City vs. the Country: Madeline is a City Mouse in contrast to George's Country Mouse family. However, the film neither demonizes nor idealizes the city or the country.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: The death of the infant during childbirth.
  • The Cutie: Ashley is so cheerfully lovable. Which makes any pain she goes through incredibly hard to bear.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: The final conversation between Peg and Madeleine has the former talking casually about George, implying she's warming to her new daughter-in-law.
  • Foreshadowing: Johnny trying to tape a program about meerkats acts as foreshadowing that he does still love Ashley after all.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: George and Madeleine married only after a week of knowing each other.
  • Freudian Trio: The three main couples.
    • Eugene and Peg (Ego).
    • George and Madeline (Superego).
    • Johnny and Ashley (Id),
  • Gender-Blender Name: Ashley plans to name the baby Junebug if it's a girl - and still nickname it that if it turns out to be a boy.
  • Genki Girl: Ashley often gets very excited.
  • Heel Realization: While not necessarily evil, Johnny is an aloof and neglectful husband at the start of the film. After Ashley loses the baby, it's hinted that he is reminded of his love for her and wants to try and rebuild their relationship.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Johnny and Ashley, though not the happiest example.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Madeleine and George's sex life is rampant, in contrast to the rest of George's family.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Ashley is a real Morality Pet for George and he treats her as if she's his little sister throughout the film.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: One scene has Ashley masturbating to a picture of a young Johnny, back before they were married and their relationship became sour, showing she longs for the man he used to be, rather than the man he became.
  • Mood Whiplash: Ashley going into labor is a pretty standard enjoyable, humorous scene. It doesn't last long.
  • Morality Pet: Ashley is clearly the pet of the family, not just George. It's she who bonds with Madeleine the most and the one who brings Peg's softer side come out.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened between brothers George and Johnny, it must have been very bad.
  • Not So Stoic: Peg is an ice queen for most of the film but bawls her eyes out when Ashley loses the baby.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: A scene shows Johnny at work - and he's a different person. He's happy and joking around, which a lot of viewers have taken as an indicator that Peg's influence is what makes him so sullen around the house.
  • Parental Favouritism: George is clearly Peg's preferred son. If this extends to in-laws, then Ashley is also her preferred daughter-in-law.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: George's parents seems to dislike his and Madeline's marriage.
  • The Pollyanna: Ashley always finds way to be optimistic.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: Ashley wished to be a cheerleader in school but didn't make the squad.
  • The Quiet One: Eugene is the quietest member of the family, rarely speaking to anyone.
  • Running Gag: Eugene can't find his screwdriver, which he mentions at various points in the film. In one of the final scenes, Madeleine finds it in the baby's room.
  • Secondary Character Title: Junebug is the name Ashley wants for the baby. Comes into Artifact Title after the depressing outcome.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Nothing really changes at the end of the movie, though it seems Johnny does care for Ashley and George's family doesn't dislike Madeline.
  • Tragic Stillbirth: Johnny and Ashley are both devastated when the baby is stillborn.