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[whitespace] 'Big Eden'
Montana Moment: Arye Gross and Eric Scheig find paradise in 'Big Eden.'

Rocky Mountain Low

The sap runs high in too-perfect 'Big Eden'

By Richard von Busack

THE BEAUTIFULLY appointed and yet fatally tacky Big Eden concerns a Manhattan artist named Henry Hart (Arye Gross). In the opening, we see that Henry enjoys an all-but-perfect life. He has no day job, lives in a loft with view in Brooklyn and is about to see his show open at the Whitney Museum. He is, however, single, a dilemma spelled out for us in the bluntest way possible. "We've got to find you a man," says his assistant, Mary Margaret (Veanne Cox, last seen as the bitchy female lawyer told off by Erin Brockovich).

When Henry gets the news that his grandfather has had a stroke, he decides to drop everything and return to his idyllic hometown in Montana. Turns out that the grandfather is in good shape, except that he's wheelchair-bound--and the village of Big Eden is gay-friendly to a degree that makes Guerneville look like Omaha.

Still, Hart has his troubles. He's perturbed by proximity to the bisexual man whom he loved years ago, Dean (Tim DeKay); he's also being courted very discreetly by a silent but apparently man-loving Native American general-store proprietor named Pike (Eric Schweig).

The sappiest moment in Big Eden is the grandfather's speech: "Why can't you see how much love we want to pour on top of you?" (Embraces grandson.) "Can't you see what a good job God's done here?"

There are other moments almost as sugary, though. It's understood that anyone oppressed by the demands of a city would fantasize about a magic town in the mountains where the scenery is splendid, the people are nice and the food is gourmet quality. (Using the Internet, Pike becomes a master chef all on his own; thus, much of Big Eden is swollen with food porn.)

But there's a distressing undercurrent evident in this lightweight film. Directed and written by ex-ad man Thomas Bezucha, Big Eden is essentially an advertising fantasy of a vacation.

The locals are really there to wait upon Henry, whose life involves a little desultory art teaching and painting. (The art fanciers in the audience may presume what the Whitney Museum would think of the lone canvas Henry creates during the course of all these months: a hackneyed picture of a starry sky.)

Everything in the town rotates on the problem of which of the two men Henry will choose, and the townsmen can't wait to find out. The best of these Brigadoon-style dramas aren't just assemblies of quirky characters, but an outline of the way the small, magic town of one's dreams changes you. Henry's perfect when he arrives and more perfect when he seems ready to leave. Big Eden is never more than a date movie for the extremely sentimental man who bawls every time he hears "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Big Eden (PG-13; 110 min.), directed and written by Thomas Bezucha, photographed by Rob Sweeney and starring Ayre Gross, Eric Schweig and Tim DeKay, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the June 7-13, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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