Monday, June 12, 2017
I have long considered Montana to be my second home despite growing up in Minnesota. It's a fantastic state that I have always loved visiting. So, naturally Big Eden, which takes place in the Big Sky Country, holds a lot of appeal for me.
Henry Hart (played by Arye Gross) is an artist living in New York City when he receives a call that his grandfather, Sam (played by George Coe) has fallen ill. Henry rushes home to the small town of Big Eden, Montana to help take care of him. He's greeted by family friend Grace (played by Louise Fletcher) who helps him get settled. Since neither Henry nor Sam is much of a cook, she recruits the owner of the local general store, the shy and introverted Pike Dexter (played by Eric Schweig), to deliver dinner to Henry and Sam each night, which was prepared by Widow Thayer (played by Nan Martin). Henry quickly discovers that his old high school crush, Dean (played by Tim McKay) is also back in town, divorced and with two young kids in tow. Meanwhile, Pike has been secretly crushing on Henry and begins secretly substituting meals he prepared for the ones Widow Thayer has been making, even recruiting his friends who hang out in his shop to help. When some of the town locals catch wind of what Pike is up to, including Widow Thayer, they come together to help Pike win Henry's heart.
Thomas Bezucha wrote and directed the film and infuses the entire film with a warm sentiment without being sappy. He manages to craft a group of characters to populate this small Montana town. The story does take on a sort of fable quality as the film goes on and noticeably omits any sort of homophobic character, which I actually appreciated in the film. Some people have criticized the film for that aspect, saying it was unrealistic that there wouldn't be in a place like small town Montana, but as someone who has spent a fair amount of time there, I don't feel like they're giving Montanans enough credit. In my experience it's always been a very live and let live attitude for the most part. Bezucha shot the film in Montana, primarily around Whitefish and Kalispell and uses the surrounding scenery to beautiful effect, creating and idyllic backdrop for the film to unfold.
This film has a fantastic cast for what is really a rather low-budget film and uses them to wonderful effect. Arye Gross is great as Henry, doing a great job portraying his character, a man at a crossroads in his life trying to decide what to do with the rest of his life. Part of him feels like his time in Big Eden is only temporary, but part of him wants to stay as well and is looking for a reason to stay, especially as weeks turn into months. Louise Fletcher is great as Grace, exuding a great, maternal warmth in all her scenes (so very un-Nurse Ratched then). Eric Schweig is great as Pike, who is very shy and has trouble expressing himself and Schweig does a great job making the character quite endearing. I also have to single out Nan Martin as the Widow Thayer, who makes the town busybody an absolute delight with her deep throat voice and animated expressions. Over the course of the film she sets up singles gatherings to try and pair up Henry with someone, first with girls and then when she realizes he's gay brings about another group of single guys until she finds out what Pike is up to and switches gears to help him instead.
There is a lot to love about Big Eden. It's a wonderfully directed and acted romantic story, filled with lovable characters with plenty of humor and warmth. And every time I watch it, it makes me want to go back to Montana again.