Judd stars in Joey Lauren Adams

Come Early Morning

on November 10, 2006 by Francesca Dinglasan
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Kentucky native Ashley Judd returns to her regional roots in actress Joey Lauren Adams' directorial debut Come Early Morning. Although the story about an independent Southern woman attempting to come to terms with family, work and love is at best a functional one, performances add a level of depth that heightens interest in character, if not necessarily plot, development.

Competent in her job as a construction contractor, Lucy (Judd) is far less capable at managing her social life. Nightly bar binges result in a revolving door of one-night stands that leave her fleeing motel rooms in the morning and tossing out incriminating underwear. The reasons for her inability to commit are never spelled out but rather more subtly hinted at through her familial relationships. She dutifully visits her "nana" (Diane Ladd), whose lifetime as a suffering wife is a fate that Lucy is apparently looking to avoid repeating. Even more telling are the strained ties with her reticent musician father (Scott Wilson), who remains impossible to penetrate emotionally despite Lucy's most ardent efforts, which include attending his new holy-roller church.

Lucy's routine is disrupted when she meets new town arrival Cal (Jeffrey Donovan). Although he looks like the same good ol' country boy that she is used to lovin' and leavin', Cal's genuine nature and seeming eternal patience slowly begin to wear down her resistance, although Lucy's defense mechanisms just keep resurfacing.

Similar to last year's Lonesome Jim, another pic to come out of Sundance featuring an indie-film actor (Steve Buscemi) trying on a directorial hat, Come Early Morning is anchored by a deep affection for its very anti-urban locale and an authentic attempt to capture the people populating the milieu. Set in Arkansas, Adams' script plays on types, rather than stereotypes, of small-town folk. Within that framework, Judd does her usual credible work, simultaneously evoking stubborn willfulness and a sympathetic helplessness, while Donovan adds multidimensionality to a love-interest that imbues sensitivity without sacrificing the all-important manliness so important to the XY-gender identity below the Mason-Dixon line. Starring Ashley Judd, Jeffrey Donovan, Tim Blake Nelson, Laura Prepon, Scott Wilson, Stacy Keach, Pat Corley, Ray McKinnon and Diane Ladd. Directed and written by Joey Lauren Adams. Produced by Michel Litvak, Ed Bass, Julie Yorn and Holly Wiersma. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 97 min.

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