The Good: Acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Pacing is far too slow, Tone, Dull plot, Characters are hard to empathize with
The Basics: Sadly, this film's pace and lack of genuine plot so rob it of entertainment value that I fell asleep twice while watching this, despite the performances.
If you've never heard of Come Early Morning, join the team! This independent film, released in 2006, did not receive a lot of mainstream attention and after watching it, I think the reason it might have not received much critical attention either is that the audience may still be asleep. Released on DVD with no apparent extras (at least not on the Widescreen side of the disc), this indy film drew me in by the fact that it was written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams. Adams impressed me with her performance in Chasing Amy (reviewed here!) and I thought picking up this DVD would be a nice way to support her career.
Lucy Fowler is a self-loathing boozer who spends her Friday nights getting drunk, engaging in casual sex and trying to sneak out of whatever bed she ends up in the morning after. That's her choice, based on years and years of baggage and parental modeling. One day, following a bar fight where she erupts at a woman who slept with her father, Lucy meets Cal Percell, a pretty decent guy who wants to treat Lucy well and runs into her typical roadblocks. Encouraged by her friend Kim, Lucy returns to Cal after their first date to try to develop a relationship with him, though she finds the prospect frightening and weird.
I, sadly, found the film more boring than anything else. Paced so slowly that a snail moves faster, Come Early Morning is excruciating to watch less for the establishment and development of the characters and more for the utter lack of plot. This film, written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams has a similar "therapeutic musing" quality to it as Running With Scissors without the crazy characters. The result is that the film lacks a genuine sense of character development and catharsis and instead belabors the miserable life of the protagonist far beyond the viewer's ability to care and interest in her story.
Yes, in the end the big problem with Come Early Morning is that the viewer is unable to empathize with Lucy. She is caught in her own mental traps and inhibitions, broken by the example of her mother and father and surrounded by people who treat one another poorly. The tagline on the DVD said something about how "you can't love another until you learn to love yourself" and here the movie has some serious problems living up to the hype.
Lucy begins the movie fairly comfortable in her rut and it's unclear why she breaks out of it at all for Cal. Cal treats her the same way as the men we presume were jerks to her in her past; he gives her attention, takes her home at the end of the night and they have sex. Just because he wakes up in the morning as she's leaving and drives her home, she seems to turn her world around for him. It doesn't jive. But more than that, Come Early Morning never truly sells us on the idea that Lucy doesn't like herself at the beginning. In some of the earliest scenes in the movie, she is reaching out to her estranged father and visiting her mother in a nursing home.
But even taking this amount of time to analyze the film is a stretch for me; I didn't care. How do I know how little I cared about Lucy and her character journey? I fell asleep while watching Come Early Morning. Twice. In the day time. That's how boring the film was, how uninspired the character journey of Lucy Fowler was. And, remember, I was looking forward to this film.
What saves this from absolutely dismal territory is the acting. Ashley Judd gives a decent performance - certainly better than the last movie I saw her in, which was Twisted - that is depressing and always in character. Gone is her trademark smile and the enthusiastic light in her eyes. No, on this outing she is dead-eyed and dull, which is a stretch of her talents that she pulls off quite well.
The film is backed with equally good actors who are actually acting. Laura Prepon (known as the assertive Donna from That 70's Show) is mousy and shy, Stacy Keach is paternal and kind as Owen (a far cry from his loud, angry role on Titus). Jeffrey Donovan is adequate as the "aw, shucks," down-home good ole' boy Cal.
But none of them sell me on watching this film again and it's tiresome and dull to watch. I wish it were not, but outside one or two lines, the actors showing up and performing well within their roles is all that Come Early Morning truly has going for it.
For other works with Ashley Judd, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Tooth Fairy
Someone Like You . . .
“The Game” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Darmok” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
For other film reviews, check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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