Speaking of Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz, they also starred (emphatically not as siblings) in Junebug, one of my favorite movies. Most movies about the south are silly caricatures or grotesques (sometimes extreme grotesques) or generally uninterested in reality (not that there’s anything wrong with that; Deliverance and O Brother Where Art Thou are great movies). Junebug is a rare exception.
Quick summary: Davidtz plays a cosmopolitan art dealer specializing in “outsider art,” newly married to Nivola; they pay a visit to his North Carolina home, both so she can meet his family and try to cut a deal with a nearby artist. She finds herself completely out of her element: she doesn’t understand the culture; her mother-in-law resents her; she finds she knows her husband less well than she thought. And she doesn’t know quite how to deal with Nivola’s sweet and naive sister-in-law (the wonderful Amy Adams), who adores her as representing all that is exotic and sophisticated.
Much in Junebug resonated with me. I love the way Nivola reverts to being a kid at home and clams up completely (thus providing no help to his wife); I do that too. The town reminds me of my own hometown; the culture is subtly different from, say, towns in Massachusetts in ways I’d be hard-pressed to describe. Nivola’s father, searching for a lost screwdriver, says to himself, “Now where would I be if I were a screwdriver?”–and opens the refrigerator.