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April 23, 2008

DVD Journal: "Come Early Morning"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --


Come Early Morning. This small drama -- written and directed by the actress Joey Lauren Adams -- is a soulful, understated sweetheart. Set near Little Rock, it stars Ashley Judd as a contractor with issues. Her dad is beyond-uncommunicative; her mom’s in a bum marriage; and she herself is caught in a spiral of drinking recklessly and bedding whomever.

The film has a lot going for it: tons of small-town/small-city Southern atmosphere; a first-class cast doing sensitive work; feelings and emotions — some of them harsher than contempo viewers are probably comfortable with — swirling this way and that; and Ashley Judd at her real-girl best. Fondly and patiently, it delivers heaps of what movies these days seem so often to have given up on: respectful and sympathetic observations of and insights into how real people really live.

Extra bonus points for the way Adams and her cinematographer Tim Orr portray the flesh of the women characters, with all the little bumps, nicks, scars, and bruises alongside the smoothness, the translucency, and the curves. Why does female flesh bruise so easily?

A vital question the film leaves unanswered: How does Ashley's character -- a woman in her mid-30s who smokes, drinks, eats any old thing, and takes no care of herself whatsoever -- still manage to have the nicest figure in town? But maybe that’s part of why we love the movies.

"Come Early Morning" is a film for everyone who recalls early Jonathan Demme movies with pleasure. (Me, I really-really, triple-love "Citizens Band," which isn't available on DVD, and "Melvin and Howard," which is.) Fast-Forwarding Score: Not at all.

Semi-related: I gloated over the time I met Ashley Judd. Here's an interview with Joey Lauren Adams and Ashley Judd. Here's a video interview with the two women.



posted by Michael at April 23, 2008


My favourite simile: "she has skin like a lightly bruised peach".

Posted by: dearieme on April 24, 2008 7:26 AM

I loved this movie.

One of the things that stuck me about it: The screenplay sets up all sorts of potentially horrible bits, but the movie itself manages to glide right over them. There's an abandoned jukebox, which somehow you just know will end up being used symbolically; a lost dog; a couple of church events that are all too easy to make fun of; a guitar-playing father who has never cut loose in front of his daughter.

Some of these things pay off (albeit in pleasing, unexpected ways); others are just allowed to dissipate into the overall texture of the movie. (And this is a movie that is largely about texture.)

I see Adams wrote the screenplay as well as directed. I wonder if she knew from the start that her screenplay needed to be muted and downplayed or if she inuited that while filming and editing. It's a successful approach in any event. By the time the movie ended I felt as though I'd seen a delicate high-wire act.

I like the Demme comparison. It's not as jivey or from-the-hip as Demme, but, like Demme's early stuff, it doesn't hit anything on the nose, and its view of people is attuned to eccentricity and unpredictability in a way that amounts to a casual sort of humanism. It feels picked up by an antenna rather than pushed through a meat grinder.

By the way, Michael, have you seen that some Chris Marker films have been recently released on DVD? The Last Bolshevik is among them. See here:

Posted by: Ron on April 24, 2008 8:54 AM

I see the south central Wisconsin public libraries have nine copies of the DVD. I'll give it a viewing.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on April 24, 2008 10:36 AM

Dearieme -- That is lovely. Who came up with it? Amis Sr.? Nabokov?

Ron -- That's nicely-said and very apt. Thanks for the Chris Marker tip too, I hadn't know "Last Bolshevik" was finally available ... Love that movie.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 24, 2008 10:44 AM

Marker on DVD. Awesome! I enjoyed both films on the Sans Soleil/La Jetee disc.

Which ones would you recommend, Michael?

Posted by: Thursday on April 24, 2008 10:54 AM

Lester -- Let us know how you react. I notice that a lot of the viewers on Amazon say that they found the movie a downer. I suspect that they're just not used to unforced tones and un-juiced-up emotionality. But maybe they're on to something...

Thursday -- Oh, be sure to try "The Last Bolshevik." I've seen a decent amount of Marker and I'd put it right up there with "Sans Soleil" and "La Jetee" as one of his very best.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 24, 2008 11:49 AM

I'll definitely give this one a try. Meanwhile, in answer to Michael's question: "A vital question the film leaves unanswered: How does Ashley's character -- a woman in her mid-30s who smokes, drinks, eats any old thing, and takes no care of herself whatsoever -- still manage to have the nicest figure in town? But maybe that’s part of why we love the movies."

Simple - the character is really in her early 30's and she's still getting away with it. Take it from someone who's not so early 30's any more.

Posted by: Judith Sears on April 24, 2008 12:44 PM

"Dearieme -- That is lovely. Who came up with it? Amis Sr.? Nabokov?" Sorry, can't remember and, horrors, Google doesn't seem to know.

Posted by: dearieme on April 24, 2008 4:10 PM

ashley judd was really good in william friedkin's "bug" from last year. i was suprised, i'd never really seen her in much of anything but for some reason i didn't think she'd be any good but i was wrong.

Posted by: t. j. on April 24, 2008 8:01 PM

"Why does female flesh bruise so easily?"

Every so often I find a bruise that I have no memory of getting, but I am comforted by the fact that I earned that sucker. I'm occasionally prone to smacking parts of my body into immovable objects such as desks.

More seriously, though, the only major difference I can see between the genders is that women have more of a soft layer— body fat, God forbid you should mention that— while men can safely drop that skin fat percentage to maybe half that of women. Perhaps fat bruises easier? I don't know, I've never considered it. (See above;; I don't bruise easily, but I get plenty of bruises through not being extra careful.)

Posted by: B. Durbin on April 26, 2008 8:29 PM

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