Character driven comedy-drama that’s left festival audiences joyous, and a bulking trophy shelf for actress Amy Adams who plays an overly enthusiastic country bumpkin and mother-to-be, hooked on the fashion tips and tittle-tattle she reads in chic lifestyle magazines. The story centers on the awkward culture clash & failed connections within an extended family.... More
Big city art-dealer, Madeleine (Davidtz) meets her husband’s family for the first time, in small town North Carolina. Though most of the family are intimated by her chic persona, sister-in-law Ashley (Adams) - another outsider sucked into the family by marriage - seizes on Madeleine’s city sophisticate with an enthusiasm that’s "charmingly tinged with tactless inelegance" (Empire). But Madeleine is also there on business, in search of an eccentric artist, which eventually forces her to choose between her new family and her ambitions.Hide
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BY Flicks Writer
The family consists of cold Ma (Weston), withdrawn Pa (Wilson), angry son (McKenzie) and his pregnant wife Ashley (Adams). Of course the film is dependent on these performances, and they’re special. Each character is self involved, and distinct. It feels like a bunch of individuals trying to work out what the hell everyone else in the family is on about and why they’re hanging out with them. Sounds like your family doesn’t it?
The much touted Amy Adams’ pregnant Ashley (loved by audiences, critics & the Academy Awards) is the exception. Ashley is over excitable, curious & always optimistic. It’s the kind of character who’d be slap worthy in real life, but thanks to Adams, is always charming here. She lives up to expectations in one of the funniest & and most strikingly believable performances of the year.
But what I liked most was the distance filmmaker Phil Morrison places the audience at. He’s been compared, after this first outing, to Gus Van Sant & Jim Jarmusch. In this sense it’s quite an accurate comparison. It’s like a story and a bunch of characters have been served up for the audience, and you take from it what you will. It doesn’t pass judgment on them, nor justify their actions, nor tell you how to feel about them, it just shows them in all their normal, imperfect glory.
This is what I’ve been harping on about people. This is what independent films often do so well. It sets them apart from some of the ‘cue the swelling cry music, cue the slow dolly in, cue the sweeping camera’ fare of ‘Hollywood’. It creates an interest and investment in the characters, and leaves you wondering what you think of them after the film’s finished.
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BY Hannah-Carter lister
George and Madeline met at her art gallery for outsider art in Chicago, and married quickly and in the name of lust it seems. Once they arrive at George's home, George is noticeably absent, leaving Madeline to fend for herself. He doesn't shield or her or guide her through the family's workings as would be expected by most... More new wives.
Madeline quickly gets on the wrong side of her new mother in law, Peg (Celia Weston) by repeatedly calling her Pat when they first meet. One does get the sense that Peg would not have welcomed Madeline in any case. Madeline's sophistication noticeably grates against the family's simplicity. Madeline does try her hardest to fit in, but she isn't accepted by George's parents or brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie). Luckily she has Johnny's wife, Ashley (Amy Adams) on her side. Ashley welcomes Madeline as though she is a celebrity, with questions at a million miles an hour.
Amy Adams broke my heart with her sweetness, naivety and excitement. Her adoration of and patience with her undeserving sullen husband Johnny (Ben McKenzie) is summed up when she says to him after yet another irrational outburst, "God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way".
We are not told exactly why Johnny is so angry. The scene showing him happy at work seems to indicate that his anger comes from his family. My guess is that he is frustrated at his own shortcomings and failure to achieve what he believes he is capable of. He can hardly communicate, let alone express his feelings. The scene where he tries, and fails, to record a programme for his wife on Meerkats (her favourite) was fantastic. It showed that he really does care for his wife but he cannot express his love or deal with his emotions in a healthy way. Without this scene Johnny's nastiness would be irredeemable.
This is a film that does not judge. It does not villainise or revere. It doesn't so much tell a story but show the characters in a believable environment; in an honest and unflinching manner. The characters are the sum of their parts. They are complex, like life is complex.Hide
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