Come Early Morning Review
By Don Willmott
For some reason, Come Early Morning was gone by early afternoon. I'm not sure why this indie gem was so utterly overlooked, but it's well worth a screening, especially for Ashley Judd fans who are often disappointed by the dreck in which she so often chooses to star. This movie is a wonderful bookend of sorts to Judd's first significant feature, the luminous Ruby in Paradise. In both films, Judd plays a not-quite-white-trash southern woman trying to carve out a place for herself in a tough world. In Ruby she was a 20-ish waif fleeing an abusive family in Tennessee. Here she's a 35-year-old construction contractor in Arkansas so damaged by her distant alcoholic father (Scott Wilson) that she's utterly incapable of having a meaningful relationship with a man.
Lucy Fowler's modus operandi is to get totally drunk down at a local roadhouse called the Forge and then hook up with whichever man strikes her fancy. The next (early) morning, she finds herself picking up her panties off a motel room floor, sneaking out before the guy wakes up, and racing home to rehydrate and treat her hangover before heading out in her pickup truck to a construction site. Her roommate Kim (Laura Prepon) looks on disapprovingly.
Lucy reaches out to her father, who lives alone and in silence in a nearby apartment. Having heard he's been attending a new holy roller church, she visits him and asks to go with him to next Sunday's service. He doesn't seem to care one way or the other, so she attends and finds at least a little comfort in the Bible-thumping pastor's sermon.
Things get interesting -- and upsetting -- for Lucy when a guy she meets at the Forge turns out to be a true gentleman. Cal (Jeffrey Donovan) is new in town, drives a T-top Camaro, and couldn't be more polite and solicitous. He's happy to invite Kim along as a chaperone on his first date with Lucy but can't understand when Lucy reverts to her usual behavior and tries to slip out the morning after without talking to him. Another date (involving hunting and cooking frogs!) also causes Lucy stress. She's pathologically afraid of getting close to anyone. "I'm not good with relationships," she admits to the baffled Cal, who may soon become "the man that got away."
The role of Lucy was custom made for Judd, and she's brilliant in it. Maybe she should stick to the country thing. (It's in her blood, right?) Writer/director Joey Lauren Adams (the helium-voiced star of Chasing Amy) succeeds with her debut effort, finding great subtlety in the story, the settings, and the performances. In fact, Come Early Morning would make a perfect double feature with Ruby in Paradise. Watching them back to back would give you a great appreciation for what Judd is capable of when she's got her hands on the right material.
Just not too early, OK?
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 31st August 2007
Distributed by: IDP Distribution
Production compaines: Holly Wiersma Productions, Bold Films, Firm Films
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 8
Cast & Crew
Starring: Ashley Judd as Lucy Fowler, Jason T. Davis as Motel Man, Richard Lee Crow as Motel Clerk, Laura Prepon as Kim, Christine Renee Ward as Sue, Candyce Hinkle as Doll, Scott Wilson as Lowell Fowler, Tim Blake Nelson as Uncle Tim, Pat Corley as Papa, Diane Ladd as Nana, Wally Welch as Eli, Ritchie Montgomery as Bob, Jeffrey Donovan as Cal Percell, Nancy Ellen Mills as Michelle, Chuck Borden as Man with Michelle