The film Big Eden (2000) by Thomas Bezucha is a wonderful film, which address the themes of love and homosexuality through tolerance, acceptance, kindness, friendship, humor and tenderness. Big Eden was a breakthrough film that finally depicted gay men of all shapes, sizes, and ages navigating the treacherous waters of love just like regular folks, with no over-the-top drama or any other stereotypically “gay” details thrown in just for laughs. It won awards in several gay and lesbian film festivals, and was nominated for best limited release film at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2002.
The film stars Arye Gross as Henry Hart, a successful, but lonely gay artist from New York City, who returns to his rural hometown in Montana, to care for his ailing grandfather, Sam Hart (George Coe). Henry is welcomed back by the townsfolk, all of whom are aware of his sexuality and are highly accepting and even supportive towards him (the film’s plot and dialogue is notably devoid of homophobic content). While at home, Henry is forced to confront his unresolved feelings for high school friend Dean Stewart (Tim DeKay), while simultaneously beginning to fall in love with Pike Dexter (Eric Schweig), the shy Native American owner of the Big Eden’s general store.
Eric Schweig won the Grand Jury Award Outfest as Outstanding Actor for his role as Pike Dexter in Big Eden. He appears on the screen fifteen minutes after the beginning of the film, when Henry, accompanied by his aunt, the angelic Grace Cornwell (Louise Fletcher) goes to the general store. Grace wishes to consult Pike for finding a solution regarding Sam’s meals, who returns from the hospital following a heart attack, and Henry’s meals, who do not cook at all. Pike proposes to ask the old widow Thayer (Nan Martin) to cook for them, but Grace insists that Pike should deliver the meals every day. Pike is a gentle being, a quiet and lonely man, which feels much better at home with his dog instead of being in the midst of the mob. He is also obviously very troubled by the presence of Henry, but he accepts to help Grace.
As the meals prepared by the widow Thayer are hardly appetizing, Pike decides to secretly cook better meals for Henry and his grandfather, and began to study some cookbooks with great application. At each delivery, Pike surreptitiously replaces the meals cooked by the widow Thayer for his own meals, much to the delight of Henry and Sam. Through his visits, Pike becomes more and more in love with Henry, but he seems so tormented by his feelings that the villagers give him support: the widow Thayer, who discovered his shenanigans and was touched by his dedication to Henry, as well as the old bunch of cowboys who used to hang out at the general store, come to help Pike to cook his sophisticated and elaborate recipes for Henry.
Because of his shyness and feelings, Pike always refuses Henry’s invitations to stay for dinner when delivering the meals at their home. But one day, while Sam is in bed, Henry really begs Pike to stay with him and keep him company. During dessert, Pike discovers one of the paintings of Henry in the next room. The work represents the stars of the Pleiades and Pike suddenly unravels; he starts telling an Onondaga myth associated with this constellation. This myth is about children exiled in heaven and transformed into stars, children which still remember their hometown and the unconditional love of their parents. So, they sometimes return to earth to see them again, as shooting stars. Henry is deeply touched by this story, which resembles his own exile in New York as well as the unconditional acceptance of his homosexuality expressed by his grandfather and all the other folks of Big Eden. Henry seems then to discover his emerging feelings for Pike, and the two heroes will open themselves gradually to love, but not without struggling first with their own fears.
The love and support that every inhabitant of Big Eden are sharing with other community members remind us that family ties, friendship, love, and especially the acceptance of others, transcend the barriers of generations, cultures and sexual inclinations. These unilateral tolerance and benevolence unfortunately do not exist in reality, but making them as credible and beautiful on the screen, Thomas Bezucha really makes us wish to become better human beings.
Dialogues, photography, screenplay, editing, casting and actor’s performances in this film are really great, but Eric Schweig steals the movie. His shyness and yearning for Henry is so heartfelt that we sincerely hoped to see him capture Henry’s affection.
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Writer: Thomas Bezucha
Stars: Arye Gross, Eric Schweig, Tim DeKay, Louise Fletcher, George Coe
-2001 Cleveland International Film Festival Best Film and Best American Independent Feature Film (Bezucha)
-2001 Florida Film Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature (Bezucha)
-2000 L.A. Outfest Audience Award for Outstanding Narrative Feature (Bezucha) and Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film (Schweig)
-2001 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Jury Award for Best Fiction Feature (Bezucha)
-2000 San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature (Bezucha)
-2000 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Audience Award for Favorite Narrative Feature (Bezucha)
-2001 Toronto Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival for Best Feature Film or Video (Bezucha)