Come Early Morning
It feels like a long wait until morning but at least you're spending time with some great actors.
Lucy (Ashley Judd) is a small town girl just getting by with her small-town job and small-town roommate. Relationships are forgettable to her, mainly because she tries to sneak out before her lovers even wake up. But Cal (Jeffrey Donovan) wants more than a one night stand. He actually cares, encourages her to stay for breakfast and maybe even have a conversation. This is all new for Lucy. Someone actually cares about her feelings? How could that be when she doesn't even care about her own? It changes her approach to all her usual routines--her boss (Stacy Keach), her family and her church. But positive change has a hard time sticking and old habits threaten to ruin Lucy's progress. That's about as far as we can stretch this plot description. Really it's just sleeping around, trying to stay faithful and open, and going about small-town life. It's really slow, or you could call it deliberate, if you're being kind--so you'd better love promiscuous drunks to spend 90 minutes with them.
Judd gives her most powerful performance in decades, since her debut performance in the indie film Ruby in Paradise. She may not be playing a suicidal cutter in Come Early Morning, but she gets to show real emotional pain. She cries, yes, but what's really going on with her self-esteem is much more subtle. An awesome supporting cast makes sure Lucy exists in a real, inhabited world. Keach is an honorable boss who hopes against hope that maybe Lucy will pick up and follow him to bigger and better places, but kind of resigned in the knowledge that people don't leave their nest. Laura Prepon (TV's That '70s Show) plays Lucy's roommate, as spunky as small- town folks get but never in an obnoxious way. Diane Ladd plays what may be Lucy's future, a bitter old woman taking crap from a sexist grump. These kinds of people really exist and these actors portray them as slightly complicated people, considering the simple examples they are meant to serve in the film. Donovan sure makes Cal a lovable guy, and you almost root for him to find someone more stable than Lucy, yet he's never a pushover, just an honest good soul.
Actor-turned-director Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy) really loves the small-town setting, so she lets the camera linger on loving establishing shots. It creates a believable world of folks in their routine. She cast perfect supporting players to beef up the star vehicle and really just lets them go. Some are familiar faces professional enough to tone down any personas they may have. Others are unknowns who bring more authentic color outside of Hollywood. The story gives them all quirks to show, but a lot of it is just effective casting. There is nothing flashy about the style of Come Early Morning. It's definitely an indie in the vibe of people sitting around talking, but there are no extended diatribes, á la Kevin Smith. Come Early Morning is focused on moving the characters' emotional journeys forward. That's exactly what Adams should be doing in serving this rural relationship drama. If given a subject with broader appeal or a killer hook, Adams could surely have a long career behind the camera.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.