Best known as the star of Chasing Amy, Joey Lauren Adams steps behind the camera with this story about a small-town Southern woman (Judd) stuck in a drink-screw-regret rut. The film’s style, however, doesn’t bring to mind Mason-Dixon rural so much as West Coast lo-fi chic. Having premiered at Sundance last January, the film adheres to a Park City--approved template: self-destructive characters battling demons; no-way-out regional realism; celebrities mining the depths for street cred in a modest, minor-key melodrama. Could this be more ready-made for the gatekeeping indie-cinerati?
Granted, character studies like this live or die by their performances, and Judd proves capable of creating someone who’s more than the sum of her neurotic baggage. You’d have to go back to Ruby in Paradise (1993) to see the last time the actor turned a walking thirst for affection into a three-dimensional human being; for a star who built a screen persona on flinty female staunchness, Judd certainly knows how to communicate soft-centered vulnerability. But her skill at nailing the character’s neediness and Adams’s knack for giving the performers plenty of room aren’t enough to sustain such a rote sisters-gotta-work-it-out narrative. The down-and-dirty surface says depressing and gritty, but the rest of it screams daytime talk-show fodder. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear