Any woman will tell you that a mother-in-law is probably the most difficult person to please and this movie demonstrates exactly that. Madeline (Embeth Davidtz) found that the hard way when she married George (Alessandro Nivola) a week after meeting him and apparently never meeting his family either at the wedding or later on. While on a business trip to rural North Carolina to sign up a folk painter for her art gallery, she goes to meet her husband’s (totally dysfunctional) family.
The mother-in-law Peg (Celia Watson) does not like her from the first moment finding her to be way too pretty, smart, and elegant for her taste. The father-in-law, Eugene (Scott Wilson) seems pretty unhappy with his life, and so is the brother-in-law Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie), who is a loser, has a low end job, and lives at home along with his pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams). Except for Ashley, a simple, likeable, sweet woman from the Bible Belt, no one accepts Madeline. To make things even harder for her, neither did her husband prepare her for the trip to a family that has not known much about the world, except whatever they saw in their tiny town or heard at the church, nor does he stand up for her when she puts herself in uncomfortable situations.
I had to admire Madeline for making a very sincere effort to connect with her husband’s family even though they have nothing in common. She is a daughter of diplomats, born abroad, lived/traveled extensively, and runs an art gallery, while the family is stuck in a narrow mindset of rural America. Instead of not visiting them at all, or checking into a hotel and dropping in for a brief meeting, she chooses to stay with them, and go through very dramatic few days.
The lessons of the movie are important for anyone who has made progress in life while their family is still stuck. It is not always easy to navigate the two worlds in which many people find themselves but the right thing to do is not to force their spouses through the torture.
The movie is not a comedy, though there are some lighter moments, and if you like slow-paced, thought provoking movies, you will love this.