Junebug in any other hands could have been a mess, but Winston-Salem, NC-born director Phil Morrison has done the seemingly impossible. In his first film he’s managed to avoid two of Hollywood’s greatest repeat offences; he’s made a movie that’s virtually stereotype-free about the south that’s also a fish-out-of-water story that’s not overly cliched. Morrison’s most notable work was directing episodes of (one of my favorite shows of all time) The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Upright Citizens Brigade, and music videos for Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo (who also scored the film), Superchunk, and The Feelies, but Junebug is by far his most auspicious work to date. The story follows Madeleine, an affluent Chicago “outsider art” gallery owner who has traveled back to her newlywed husband George’s home town in North Carolina. This is a business trip for Madeleine, whose hope is to show the work of a local absurdist Civil War painter in her gallery. During their stay they live with George’s family, who Madeleine’s meeting for the first time. The next week is spent with Madeleine adjusting to the culture shock and getting to know George’s overprotective mother Peg, his reticent dad Eugene, his jealous younger brother Johnny, and Ashley (Amy Davis in a movie-making performance) as Johnny’s pregnant wife, who’s infatuated by Madeleine’s worldliness. It’s so refreshing to see a smart, funny movie about the south light on slack-jawed hillbillies and goat fucking. Morrison has given the real people around those parts a movie in which their eccentricities have been done justice. Junebug avoids the pitfalls of the fish-out-of-water story by allowing the plot to develop in the same placid way that’s typical of the south. If you know that way of life, Morrison helps you recall the things that make it unique. There are no gimmicks; it’s just the human process of Madeleine adjusting to her new environment and learning about the stock of people that her new husband came from.