Pros:Charming, sweet, and gripping. A three tissue romance.
Cons:A bit slow; the extremly supportive town is a bit contrived.
The Bottom Line: Being gay in a small town is hard...if you make it that way. Stop by Big Eden, and find a little paradise on earth.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Big Eden (2000) Written and Directed by Thomas Bezucha
"Listen, you know what they say when you get lost in the woods? If you stay put, stay in one place and don't wander, they'll find you. And I was just hoping you'd let yourself be found this time. I was hoping you'd let us find you. But you keep wandering and we can't." -Grace Cornwell.
Henry Hart (Arye Gross) is an artist about to break out; on the eve of his big show, though, he is called home to Big Eden, where his Grandfather, Sam (George Coe) has had a stroke. It is obvious there is a lot of love for Henry in this town; Grace (Louise Fletcher) seems to understand him very well, and though he has been gone eighteen years, all the old codgers in the Sit N Whittle club at the local store make him welcome. You know they all know him, because Sam had to be one of their number.
Also back in town is Dean (Tim DeKay) Henry's best friend from high school. He is also the man that Henry has had a crush on for eighteen years. Dean is delighted to see Henry. Henry's emotions are more mixed, sort of like an alcoholic contemplating the beauty of a champagne fountain at a wedding. Dean is recently divorced and back home with his two sons.
Since neither Henry nor Sam can cook a lick, Grace makes some arrangements; she gets the widow Thayer (Nan Martin) and to do the cooking, and oddly enough, Pike Dexter (Eric Schweig) owner of the store, to bring the stuff by. Widow Thayer is a notoriously bad cook, and Pike is painfully a shy Indian man. Of course, Grace is a remarkably wise woman.
Pike can't cook either, but then again he can't take the Widow's salt and cholesterol laden cooking over either, and so he learns to cook. He puts the Sit N Whittlers to fishing for trout, and makes heart healthy meals. And he is good.
And as it goes on we come to realize that Henry is not the only one pining after an old crush; so is Pike, a crush on Henry. Meanwhile the Widow Thayer arranges a little get together. Henry walks into a room with every eligible female in the county. Widow Thayer has plans. So does Henry; they are called escape. But as soon as she realizes her mistake (after that party) she turns around and does it again; with every eligible boy in the county (lot of queens for Montana; they might have had to import from nearby counties.)
Meanwhile Pike is bringing the food, and if Henry is not home, eating with Sam. But he can't bring himself to stay if Henry is going to be there. And every time he starts to work up his nerve, Dean makes a move towards being closer to Henry.
The question becomes will it be Dean, or somehow, will it be Pike? Or will Henry bolt on the whole thing, and escape back to New York?
There are a just a few obvious flaws in this movie; first, the Sit N Whittle club of grizzled old cowboys who are sitting around, backing the Widow Thayer's play to get Henry married off to either Dean or Pike? In my part of the world, they would not be discussing the short falls of the boys' romantic techniques, but what weight of rope they would need for the lynching. Honestly, if I ever found a community like Big Eden I would move there in a heartbeat. The blow up with Dean is an awkward scene...I mean I know it is an awkward scene between the two characters, but it also feels like it was wedged into the movie like the last bag of laundry in a college student's hatchback headed for Mom's Laundry. You almost expect to see a bungee cord holding the clip in the movie.
The other thing is Henry is resistant beyond all reason in discussing his secret, even when asked by those who love him. I know the reticence; this was too much. Oh, yeah, and if Henry is going to be a rising artist, I think they should have used better art to be his; I paint better than that.
For all the flaws, the movie has a sweet quality, charming and endearing. Part of it is the characters of the town. Everyone knows everybody's business, and everyone knows everyone's flaws. The Sit N Whittlers are eager for Pike to be happy, and like all men meddling in affairs of the heart, they smother the poor guy. The Widow Thayer was a delight; we all know her brand of busybody. And Louise Fletcher; we know she plays such a great villain, we often forget what a wonderful friend she can be. And her singing! It is the perfect voice for portraying the truly talented amateur. But the delight of the piece is Eric Schweig as the painfully reserved Pike Dexter. I know that quiet desperation of wanting something so badly, but being afraid to put yourself on the line.
Perhaps this is a faery tale town, like Cecily Alaska, where the characters are all just a more than a little off of center. But the drama of the heart is timeless and on target. It is charming and moving, and you will be cheering them on by the end, just like the Sit N Whittlers.
Entered into Captain D's Good Movie Write Off.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older