On Friday evenings, I go to my friends' house for dinner. We have been eating Friday dinners together now for eighteen months. Though they'd fed me many Friday (and other-night) dinners in past years, those were special occasion dinners, usually marking times when I came through town after a long absence. One of the things I value most about where I am right now is having gotten to convert some of my most valued friendships into everyday relationships. On Friday nights, I don't have to ring the doorbell. And nobody bats an eye if I want to shut our movie off so that we can find out who got booted off Dancing with the Stars (and so that you know: Giselle was utterly robbed; at least we got to see breakdancers spinning on their heads and a quadruplicated paso doble). My friends feed me amazingly well and encourage me to drink my fill of excellent wine. In return, I try to do my part by making them laugh as much as possible. When the week has gone extraordinarily well, or we're celebrating something spectacular, I sometimes get my act together and produce a pie. Their dogs nose around and try to get me to feed them, knowing that I'm a sucker for dog-nosing. We watch a lot of mindless television. Depending on who's got the remote, we watch the weather or the TV Guide channel; generally we compromise with a crime show, though sometimes I request something that doesn't involve dead bodies. When I have a good movie to offer, I take it with me; today, my copy of Junebug arrived in the mail, so it was our evening's noncomestible fare.
What I loved about Junebug when I saw it with my beloved Brooklynite in October is its pacing: unlikely things--rooms, trees, yards--get long, still shots, so that we're given time to see what's there, to make something consequential out of what might otherwise remain merely inconsequential, affecting the development of neither plot nor character. And what emerges is an entrancing (but not, I'd argue, dangerous or reactionary) aesthetic of banality. The movie is full of stuff, and places: popsicles, cigarettes, Zingers, subdivisions, plowed up yards, weirdos, hospitals, church basements, aerobeds, Cliff's notes. They're not really particularly interesting stuffs, or places, on the face of it, on their own. But they're there, and they're a world, and there's something bracingly reassuring about a filmmaker who will look at an exercycle in a bedroom or a bad set of kitchen shutters and just let them be there.
After I said goodnight to my friends and their dogs--to whom I say "I'll be right back," every time I leave them, even though all three of us know it's not strictly true--I walked out into the night and realized that in the hours I'd been at their house, the day's clouds had dissipated, leaving a clear night of brightest stars. If you've never lived in a small, rural town, you should try it sometime, if only for the night skies. Tonight, the stars were so visible that even Orion, out to walk me home, was cluttered and complicated by extra spots of light. It's nearly a half-mile from their house to mine, down a curved street through some woods in the dark, and usually (especially when it's cold) I drive, knowing that I'll come home late enough that walking might make me jumpy. But tonight, it's so warm that I took a chance on walking over, which earned me a beautiful trip back. My footsteps were enormously, crashingly loud, crunching and stone-spitting on a road that needs to be repaved, but I swung along, stride to stride, eyes on the stars and thoughts split between tonight's walk and tomorrow night's excursion. Good night, and good luck, indeed.