Come Early Morning

2006, Movie, R, 97 mins

Review

COME EARLY MORNING
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Husky-voiced actress Joey Lauren Adams' writing and directing debut is the semiautobiographical story of a small-town good-time gal who's getting tired of the endless cycle of drunken one-night stands and self-loathing morning getaways, but isn't sure how to change. Lucille Fowler (Ashley Judd) has spent much of her life living up to her nickname, "Luce" (say it out loud). She drinks too much, doesn't say "no" often enough, is estranged from her tight-lipped father, Lowell (Scott Wilson), and has all but given up on herself. But Lucy isn't a one-note country-music tragedy in the making. She's worked for local contractor Owen Allen (Stacy Keach) for nine years and has both his confidence and respect, and her drinking buddies — a motley crew of older men and habitual barflies who hang out at a rundown local roadhouse called The Forge — look out for her with the kind of devotion that's earned, not given. Lucy is loyal, self-reliant and kind to everyone but herself: She looks out for widowed neighbor Doll (Candyce Hinkle), whose mind is slowly slipping away, maintains close ties with her unhappy grandma (Diane Ladd) and aimless uncle Tim (Tim Blake Nelson), and even adopts the stray puppy that wanders into Owens' yard, swearing the dog is going to the pound even as she names her Bessie, stocks up on dog chow and makes veterinary appointments to treat the abandoned pup's wounded ear. When new-guy-in-town Cal Percell (Jeffrey Donovan) asks Lucy out on a date, her roommate, Kim (Laura Prepon of That '70s Show), suggests trying a different approach: Cal seems like a genuinely decent fellow, someone with whom Lucy might be able to have a real relationship. But old habits die hard and Lucy is caught up in a web of old habits and recurring hurts. After years of hiding her light under shallow, disposable Hollywood roles, Judd revisits the grit and vulnerability that made RUBY IN PARADISE (1993) such a revelation: Her Lucy — the part Adams clearly wrote for herself — is an all-too-human bundle of contradictory impulses whose banged-up arms and scabby knees bear witness to a life lived carelessly. Shot in Adams' hometown of North Little Rock, Arkansas, the film has a worn, live-in feel, and its unhurried narrative captures the subtle rhythms of small-town life. Nothing much happens on the surface, but worlds of hope, hurt and determination lie right behind the characters' eyes, waiting to be discovered. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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