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Big Eden

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Big Eden

Starring: Ayre Gross, Eric Schweig
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Rated: NR
RunTime: 114 Minutes
Release Date: June 2001
Genres: Drama, Gay/Lesbian

*Also starring: Tim Dekay, George Coe, Louise Fletcher, Nan Martin, O'Neal Compton, Corinne Bohrer

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

First-time writer and director Thomas Bezucha's BIG EDEN is part gay romance and part slice-of-small-town-life story. A good-spirited and closely observed movie, it is filled with honest characters who all possess a genuine chemistry. The would-be lovers and the townsfolk actually care about one another. The cynics, of course, will argue that such rampant humanitarianism makes it all a fairy tale, but I found it touching and believable from beginning to end.

As the story opens, Henry Hart (Arye Gross), a Manhattan artist, is called back to his remote hometown in Montana, where his grandfather (George Coe) has had a stroke. Once back in town, Henry is forced to confront the love of his life, Dean Stewart (Tim DeKay), a straight buddy of his from school. The recently divorced Dean has just moved back into town with his two young boys. Dean's a physical kind of guy who likes lots of bear hugs and manly touching, which frustrates Henry enormously. Although they haven't even spoken in 10 years, Henry still has his lifelong crush on Dean. Both actors turn in nicely nuanced and compelling performances.

The story concerns a few, not very well kept secrets. Henry tries to keep his sexual orientation from his grandfather although most locals figure it out. The other secret concerns cooking.

In the story's most engaging and enigmatic performance, Eric Schweig (TOM & HUCK) plays Pike Dexter, a painfully shy, gentle giant who is uncomfortable speaking to humans, although he opens up easily to his dog. A Native American, Pike runs the general store and post office in which the town's inhabitants spend most of their free time. When Henry's grandfather requires a special diet and Pike is asked to deliver his food, Pike launches into the equivalent of a home study version of a speed cooking course. Reading voraciously, Pike turns himself in short order into an accomplished chef. He tries to hide all this by substituting his food for that of the local spinster who supposedly is preparing the grandfather's meals. Her food goes to Pike's dog, who'll eat anything.

Beautifully filmed and warmly scored, the movie is a treat for the eyes and ears. Only a needlessly pat ending spoils what is otherwise a realistic and moving story.

BIG EDEN runs 1:57. It is rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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