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
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