' Cinema Romantico: CIFF Report: Come Early Morning

Thursday, October 12, 2006

CIFF Report: Come Early Morning

Ashley Judd. Speaking strictly cinematically what does this name make you think? No doubt the thoughts of schlocky thrillers such as "Kiss the Girls" and "High Crimes" are dancing in your head. But there is another Ashley Judd, such as the one on display in the indie gem "Ruby in Paradise". She is so nuanced and subtle and terrifically great in it you will find yourself wondering aloud why the hell she isn't in more movie likes this?

I suppose they say there aren't that many great female roles in Hollywood and, sadly, this is true to some degree and that may explain it. Ashley's got a mortgage. She's got to eat. She's got to get to all those Kentucky basketball games somehow. Hence, you get the crud. But last night the latter Judd was on display in "Come Early Morning", the directorial debut of Joey Lauren Adams (best known as the object of Ben Affleck's affection in "Chasing Amy").

"Come Early Morning" is the type of film made for someone like me. It's light on plot and heavy on character. The little story there is comes via the characters and their interactions with one another. Adams also wrote and she chooses to place Judd in every scene of the movie. I love that. It's such a ballsy thing for the writer to do. You can write all the great scenes and killer dialogue you want but you live and die by what your lead actress or actor does. And Ashley Judd runs with it.

She plays Lucy Fowler, a woman in a small southern town who drinks too much and sleeps with the wrong men and has a father who never speaks to her and a mother who is advancing quickly in age and an aunt and uncle who fight all the time and a roommate who is around solely to, you know, give helpful advice. Oh yes, there is also there is a new guy in town trying to win Lucy's heart.

I'm certain there will be those who whine that they have seen this somewhere before, and they have. But how many damn times to do we have to go over this, people? It's not WHAT a movie is about but HOW it's about it.

"Come Early Morning" is about it fairly well. And a lot of that has to do with Judd's convincing performance. As a writer Adams shows promise. She does not oversketch her characters, filling them with needless tics and backstory. She lets the actors breathe life into them. She has good rythym with most of her dialogue but does fall prey to over-writing in some situations.

- "Is that clock right?"
- "Last time I checked."

There is also a spiritual subplot that feels gangly, especially in the scene Judd shares with the preacher. It is all hammered home and spelled out. As the audience we know what the scene is saying and so the characters don't need it to say, too.

The third act is probably the strongest as Adams refuses to tie up the whole package and put a bow on top. The scene Judd shares with her father illustrates this. Rather than giving us what convention would dictate, we get the opposite.

But the few weak spots in the script don't negate any of the power of the lead acting. Judd makes it all work. The film is probably far too small for her to merit an Oscar nomination or even any buzz for a nominaton. But it would be nice if maybe she just got sorta' mentioned.

(Note: Joey Lauren Adams actually attended the screening, and did a Q&A session, and I was privileged enough to both very briefly meet her and shake her hand afterwards. It was pretty darn cool. So it's safe to say Joey Lauren Adams is now the most famous person I have met. She also had a line during the Q&A that must be repeated as it was absolutely priceless: "You do 'Chasing Amy' and think all these doors will open and then it turns out your reward is 'Big Daddy'". I knew I liked her for a reason.)

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