Big Eden is a breath of fresh air!
I would like to shake director Thomas Bezucha's hand and thank him for the kind of film I have been waiting for for years: a film in which gay men were represented in all shapes and sizes, where they actually were OVER the age of 30, and where they were just regular guys! No drag queens, no fey lispy men snapping their fingers saying "you go, girl," no circuit boys and their designer drugs, no latest club hit from Cher, no stereotypes played for laughs. I was happy that the film All Over The Guy was a step in the right direction, and Big Eden is the one film that has broken through that barrier and gosh darn it, SOMEONE had to do this!
Realists and critics like Roger Ebert have totally missed the point of this film, saying no town could be this welcoming to gays and lesbians and supportive of their lives. The filmmakers wanted to present a "what if" situation in which there was no bigotry, so that the focus of the story would be on the self discovery of the three main leads and the romance. What's so wrong with that for a change? The fact that this was done so well helps even more. Takes you back to films from the 1940s and beyond. Think of it this way, if this were a story about heterosexual love, then there would be no question about the whole town's support and helping get the lovers together. That's the focus of the story, so by eliminating the "bigotry and hate" aspect, we can just sit back and enjoy what this film is supposed to be about: intimacy and where you belong.
As Henry (Arye Gross) is visiting his hometown, he finds he still has feelings for a friend from his childhood, Dean(Tim DeKay). In the meantime, Henry is perplexed about the behaviour of the Native American store owner named Pike (Eric Schweig), thinking the guy doesn't like him (a deleted scene elaborates on this fact, Henry says "he didn't even like me back in high school.") Ah, but what is REALLY behind Pike's actions? There is quite a bit of vague behaviour so that you're left thinking "who's really smitten with whom here?" Eventually, Henry realizes the true meaning of his feelings for Dean and with a heartfelt film like this, you just know that somehow everyone will find a degree of happiness and not be left hurt.
This is a film about friends and family, and most of all, HOPE. It's refreshing to see a focus on the story without trying to make sure there's enough cussing to garner a certain rating or "cute, naked bodies" to lure some in who would normally not be watching a film like this in the first place. One reviewer was offended by the casting of a Native American in Big Eden, well I say KUDOS to to casting Eric Schweig -- I personally know gay Native Americans and as that saying goes, "we are everywhere" and you can't deny that certain races or nationalities have gays and lesbians in them. In a time where too much focus is on lipstick lesbians and how you can just work a movie around that, it's so wonderful to have a film like Big Eden defy all the typical cliches and dare to give us a rather wholesome, healthy portrayal of gays -- one in which we do value our families and their support, and have other values instead of what people seem to think it's like from watching Queer As Folk.
I've always felt Arye Gross would be given a great lead role one day, and he plays Henry so well, so much like a "regular guy." I for one am so happy that a film like this is showing gay men do have lives beyond the age of 30, and can be just as desirable. Tim DeKay may be eye candy without a shirt for some, but his character is still grounded in reality and he handles that part quite well. Eric Schweig is simply perfect, his character shows that you can't just look at someone and say "that's gay for sure." Louise Fletcher is so loving you just want to hug her, and George Coe gives his role a lot of respect.
Big Eden was a big winner at numerous film festivals, and I am so happy that all involved in making this dream of a film a reality (and a REAL reality situation for our lives someday soon) are being given a lot of respect for this vision!