by Greg Muskewitz
From what I’ve read, “Big Eden” is the most acclaimed gay/lesbian film. I don’t know if that would be “of all times,” or within the past decade or so, but I think its embrace by the critics and public is a good one, because the film — separated from any of the sexual labels that come with it — is a pretty good little film. It’s touching, well-acted, and directed with a passion and euphoria.Henry Hart (Arye Gross) is a single, middle-aged homosexual. When Henry’s only living relative, his grandfather Sam (George Coe) suffers a stoke, he must leave the city to the small community that his grandfather is from. Big Eden is its name, and it’s kind of like Twin Peaks, but without all the dark deceit. While nursing his grandfather back to health, Dean (Tim DeKay), Henry’s long time crush even though he’s heterosexual, has also returned to the town. While there’s a possibility of something happening there, a local handystore owner Pike (Eric Schweig) — a Native American, I believe — finds himself pining over Henry, but his shy and quiet demeanor keep him from showing his feelings. Behind the scenes however, he takes it to his own care, to cook extravagant meals that will both please Henry, but also meet the healthy requirements for Sam’s recovery.
"...more mature and romantic than many current heterosexual romances..."
“Big Eden” is no symbolic or deep film, but rather a simplistic love story. Unhappy, lonely gay man comes home for a short stay, trips over old crush, but is crushed on as well by old schoolmate. It’s a romance, albeit a gay romance, but it’s the same thing. Solid romantic films are hard to find these days. Watered-down, redux chick-flicks are a dime a dozen, and I’ve found it harder and harder to find a movie where I am even remotely swept away by the romance. The best quality about “Big Eden” is that it is able to do some sweeping of its own, and it is more mature and romantic than many current heterosexual romances (namely some crap like “Pearl Harbor” or its equally deceptive forefather, “Titanic”). Being a heterosexual myself, I still was able to find myself rooting for the lovers-to-be and touched by the struggles that they have to overcome throughout the film. It’s a sweet movie that avoids stereotypes and negative connotations, and that’s a big step for gay cinema, because, like many Chicano and African-American filmmakers end up doing, is playing into their own stereotypes since they think that’s all that will sell. “Trick” was also a sweet romance, but more for the palatable performances than for the paper-thin plot. Although it strayed from a lot of the stereotypes as well, it still was there, and in the community of Big Eden, it was something that was gone altogether. That may not be a reality, at least yet, and it may play part of the fairy tale idealism that becomes part of the romance genre, but it works and it is more than satisfying. “Big Eden” is also worth it for the special performances by Gross and Schweig, relative unknowns as far as I know.
With Louise Fletcher, Nan Martin, O’Neal Compton, Veanne Cox and Corinne Bohrer. Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha.
http://www.landmark-theatres.comFinal Verdict: B+.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5330&reviewer=172
originally posted: 06/17/01 18:20:02