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If anyone is looking for a connection between actress/screenwriter/director Joey Lauren Adams and her lead character Lucy in “Come Early Morning,” Adams admits that the film is “emotionally autobiographical.”
Unlike Lucy, a 30-something single woman in a small town who excels in her job and takes care of her grandparents, but finds nothing sustaining in her love life or in her relationship with her father, Joey Lauren Adams got the heck out of her hometown North Little Rock when she was 19 and achieved her dream of making it in Hollywood.
Adams, who recently moved to Oxford, Miss., returns to Central Arkansas this week for the local premiere of her film. Proceeds from the $50 tickets to Thursday’s event at Market Street Cinema will go toward the Oxford American’s Literary Project. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., a reception will precede the 6:45 screening (and a second screening at 7 p.m.), then everyone with a movie ticket will convene at Cornerstone Pub on Main Street in North Little Rock for an after-party with the director.
Tickets are available by calling the Oxford American at 501-450-5376, and if any remain they will be available at Market Street Cinema’s box office on Thursday. For more information, visit the magazine’s website at www.oxfordamericanmag.com.
From her breakthrough role in “Chasing Amy,” which also starred Jason Lee and Ben Affleck, to the more recent “The Break-Up” in which she played Jennifer Aniston’s friend, Adams has been known for taking daring parts. For example, in “Chasing Amy,” she was a lesbian who was being wooed by Affleck.
She’s had “Come Early Morning” on her mind for seven years, and initially thought of herself starring in the title role. But she also wanted to direct, and was adamant about filming it back home. Ashley Judd read the script, and Adams says that 10 minutes into their meeting over lunch about the project, Judd said she’d do it.
Seven years ago, Adams said, like her Lucy character, “I was dealing with what my relationship with my father was. The story was emotionally autobiographical, and I worked so hard to be independent and I wanted to put on paper how to get that independency.
“None of the events really happened, and the characters are just loosely based on people I’ve known.”
She did name the two grandmothers in the film after her own, and Cajun’s Wharf, where Adams worked for a time as a teen, gets a mention. The Forge, a small bar and billiards hall in Levy near where I-40 and Pike Avenue meet, is prominent throughout, but the Hollywood, a country bar, also serves as a setting. A residence in Scott serves as home to one of Lucy’s suitors. Moviegoers will note other familiar landmarks in Little Rock and North Little Rock, but the setting is a small town presumed to be a short drive from Little Rock.
The film is a slice of Lucy’s life, and viewers will have to find their own resolution in the story.
Of Judd’s Lucy, Adams says, “I wanted to write a female character that wasn’t a complete loser, that in certain areas of her life she excelled, and in others she struggled. I felt that was a little more honest. The challenge with writing is, how do you get a character across without having them just sit down and talk?”
Adams says the finished project is “about honesty and the very aspect of it. The cinematography, the Southern-style wardrobe, the people, everything, I wanted it all to be honest. It’s the honest moments that are the dramatic moments to push [Lucy] in a different direction.”
Adams found, along with Judd, an outstanding cast of actors. Scott Wilson, as Lucy’s father, seems to reprise his part in “Junebug” as a quiet patriarch, but in this film his outlet occasionally has been through the guitar. Wilson had never played the guitar before filming “Come Early Morning” but on film the effect Adams garners in a dramatic scene with Wilson and Judd is impressive.
“Scott had the hardest part to play,” said Adams, who had met Wilson on her last film. “We didn’t have any rehearsal time. Scott just had two days to learn what he could.”
Diane Ladd, the late Pat Corley, a blonde Laura Prepon (instead of the redhead from “That 70s Show”), and Tim Blake Nelson all play characters that ring a chord in Central Arkansas.
In one of Adams’ favorite scenes, Judd’s Lucy tries to get her father to answer his door late a night, to no avail, and breaks down on the stairs leading to the door.
“It’s a half-page on the script. Ashley did such an amazing job on that scene,” Adams said. “I had written the role for myself to act in and for years I had seen myself in the role. I did spend a lot of time making sure I had given the role up. The first day of filming it was such a great day. I knew then [Judd] was going to do something amazing with it.”