Title: Big Eden
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Starring: Arye Gross, Eric Schweig, Tim DeKay, Louise Fletcher, George Coe
Distributers: Wolfe Video
Buy Link Amazon Buy/Watch Link
Genre: M/M Comedy/Romance
Country of Origin/Language: USA/English
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Tj
Summary Review: Although completely implausible, this is an old favorite of mine that puts a smile on my face within the first 10 minutes of the movie as a NY artist moves back to his hometown in Montana to care for his Grandfather, and has to face his boyhood friend/crush, and learn to be honest with who he is.
The Blurb: Big Eden has won the audience awards at just about every gay and lesbian film festival there is. Henry (Arye Gross) is an artist living in New York but still carrying a torch for the guy he had a crush on in high school. When his grandfather has a stroke, Henry returns to his Montana hometown, Big Eden, where he rediscovers friends he hasn’t seen in years. His high school crush has since married, had children, and divorced–and seems ready to take some very different steps with his life. Big Eden is one of those implausibly tolerant towns where lesbians kiss each other in public and old coots in cowboy hats try to play matchmaker with bashful gays. Still, it’s this sweet warmth in Big Eden that has made it a festival crowd-pleaser.
The Review: As much as you may try, you simply can’t run from your past, especially when you’ve left behind unrequited love, and a town full of well-meaning people who love to meddle in your affairs. On the surface, Big Eden might seem like a lightweight romantic comedy. But as the scenes unfold, you notice the subtle messages that pop up along the way.
I was watching this movie recently for the umpteenth time and I started to wonder what makes it so appealing to me. As I said above, it is completely implausible. I doubt such an accepting place exists, but somehow I buy into the premise every time. Then it dawned on me as I watched. It’s the characters and how the cast of actors makes them so believable. So rather than talk about the plot, let’s take a look at the characters:
Henry: played by Arye Gross with just the right combination of need for the acceptance of his grandfather, and the town, and his fear of their rejection. He could’ve come off as wimpy, but Arye makes Henry just seem real, and from my perspective, reflects what many LGBTQ people experience.
Grace: played by the very talented Louise Fletcher. She’s a wonderful mother figure for Henry and gently nudges him to become more, to be himself, to as Grace so succinctly puts it, let himself be found by the people who love him. He’s spent his whole adult life running from them and himself. I love the scene where she insists that Pike deliver the meals to Henry and Sam. You just know that there’s more to Grace’s motives than mere food…
Sam: Henry’s grandfather (Sam-pa), played with a heart warming combination of gentle acceptance and a hard edged, take no prisoners fatherly love by George Coe. One of his best lines is when Sam is trying to force Henry to be honest and he asks Henry when did he (Sam) ever teach Henry to be ashamed of who he is. I wish everyone could have a Sam in their lives.
Dean: played by hunky Tim DeKay. Tim portrays Dean with such subtlety, that you might at first think him kind of blah. But still waters run deep and you quickly see that Dean truly loves Henry like a brother, and longs for a deeper connection.
Pike Dexter – Eric Schweig plays the shy, self-conscious part to perfection. He does everything possible to make Henry happy in town, yet he can’t even be in the same room with him for more than a few minutes. The scenes with Pike and Henry – seeing his discomfort with his attraction and not knowing what to do, what to say, just puts a big grin on my face. And I thoroughly enjoy Pike’s relationship with the guys that hang around the general store and how they all get involved in Pike’s personal life. I guess it really does take a village.
There are several more wonderful supporting characters that I’ll just briefly mention. Mrs. Thayer played by Nan Martin, who initially comes off as an annoying busy body, but Nan makes you like her character once you see that her motives are good. I just love how she takes the discovery of Henry’s sexuality in stride, “Why doesn’t he say something already?!” And Jim, as played by O’Neal Compton, is so wonderfully gentle with Pike, as he tries to understand what’s going on with him and Henry, why he’s going out of his way to help Henry and Sam.
The movie could have easily slipped into over the top farce, but the top-notch cast are so talented and play their parts to perfection. Could Big Eden exist? Probably not, but the stellar cast makes me want to believe with every viewing, and the messages contained within are universal and presented with great subtlety. Happily recommended!