12 April 2007 | gradyharp
Ashley Judd, Welcome Back
COME EARLY MORNING marks the writing and directing debut of Joey Lauren Adams who elects to share a bit of her birthplace atmosphere in Arkansas and while the story is sound and the writing evocative of the personal turmoil of little towns populated by good but bored people, there is nothing new here. But just the opportunity to see gifted actress Ashley Judd strut her stuff is reason enough to watch this little film and makes us wonder where has she been since her 2004 stint in 'De-Lovely'. She is just too fine an actress not to be given more beefy roles.
Lucy Fowler (Judd) lives in a little Arkansas town, a successful contractor with boss Owen Allen (Stacy Keach, another underused fine actor), but a woman without a firm attachment to her fragmented family: her shy and sequestered father (Scott Wilson) has returned to town where he hides in alcohol and steps out only for Holy Roller church services; her grandmothers Doll (Candyce Hinkle) is unstable and keeps to herself and Nana (Diane Ladd) remains in a mutually abusive marriage; and her uncle Tim (Tim Blake Nelson) who is the only stalwart member of the clan. Lucy lives with her friend Kim (Laura Prepon) who understands Lucy's shortcomings: unable to form relationships, Lucy spends her weekends getting drunk at the local tavern and sleeping with anonymous men whom she deserts a dawn.
But things change when Lucy encounters Cal Percell (Jeffrey Donovan) who provides her with the first semblance of normalcy in her relationships with men, a frightening new step she abuses by entering into her drinking mode again. Lucy begins to make changes in her view of her family, her fear of being the mirror image of her father, in her work, and in the way she views men. And the film just trails off leaving us wondering what life will now be like.
Adams has a fine handle on her subject and creates dialog that feels like it should: her election to make such a fine three-dimensional character out of Lucy's father who barely has a line to say is much to her credit (and the strong performance by Scott Wilson!). But in the end it is the pleasure of seeing Ashley Judd in a meaty role that makes the difference. Grady Harp