Thesp Joey Lauren Adams ("Chasing Amy") makes her feature writing-directing debut with "Come Early Morning," a film that feels half therapeutic exercise and half the sort of low-key down-home regional drama that was a U.S. indie staple a couple of decades back. Coming full circle in a sense from her original Sundance breakthrough with "Ruby in Paradise," Ashley Judd confidently plays a Southern woman who urgently needs to pull her life together. But, despite her efforts and those of a generally talented cast, pic just pokes along and offers nothing out of the ordinary in terms of drama, characterization or insight. Judd's presence notwithstanding, this one would be more at home on small- than on bigscreens.
A competent Arkansas construction contractor by day, Judd's Lucy is a wild, drunken woman by night, specializing in one-night stands. With a family legacy of boozing and infidelity, Lucy is challenged by newcomer Cal (Jeffrey Donovan, who deftly endows his good ol' boy with unexpected sensitivity) to have a sober, sustained relationship, but it's tough. Writing and directing are elementary, and even ace indie lenser Tim Orr can do little to supply visual distinction.
Camera (FotoKem color), Tim Orr; editor, Meg Reticker; music, Alan Brewer; production designer, Max Briscoe; costume designer, Lee Hunsaker. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 20, 2006. Running time: 95 MIN.