Tuesday, October 20, 2015
You just can't convince me, no matter how small and country a town might be, that anyone who looks and acts like Ashley Judd would ever wind up a spinster. She's the epitome of the super cute girl next door that most men immediately marry, and so is her character Ave Maria in Writer/Director Adriana Trigiani's Appalachian Mountain folksy tale BIG STONE GAP.
I knew Big Stone Gap was a comedy, but I thought in terms of getting attached to a small town and its inhabitants, the movie might have in it a little Steel Magnolia, Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean or even that little flick Sarah Jessica Parker did in 2000 called State and Main; unfortunately Big Stone Gap does not come close to hitting a single agrestic delight.
Ave Maria (Judd) is 40, runs her deceased father's drug store and still lives in the house where she grew up with her mother. She's the director of the town's annual musical production and generally well liked by all except for her Aunt & Uncle on her father's side. The movie takes place in the early 80's when Coal mining is still a viable living for the majority of men in the town, Jack MacChesney (Patrick Wilson) is one such nice looking coal minor who went to school with Ave Maria, yet the two never dated. And this is where the story line really could use some help. When the audience comes into a group of people who have known each other for a very long time, day in and day out, the best thing to do is introduce an outsider into the mix. If not, then you need an inciting incident. Really good writers can make the audience feel like they are just joining in without a lot of exposition. Otherwise, you wind up thinking to yourself, why is this just happening now?
For instance, you can tell Ave Maria has been making drug store deliveries to Jack and his mother for over 20 years, why is it today they seem to be sexually aware of one another and acting like two shy teenagers? Nothing has changed with either of them, are we to believe that all this pent up sexuality has been brewing this hard since High school without ever being explored?
Ave Maria is also kinda dating the lead in the musical, Teddy (John Benjamin Hickey) they've been friends for years, but they just now decide to attempt sex, and she's just now realizing he's probably gay. Her mother dying does reveal some important information, that sets in motion a need to make a change; but that leads to a bigger issue with the screenplay - is the theme of the movie that Ave Maria feels stifled and limited in such a small town and has been looking for a way to leave? Or is she pretty content, but just would like to be gettin a little from somebody?
Whoopi Goldberg (click for T&T review of her stand up routine in Valley Forge earlier this month) is Fleeta the pharmacist in Ave's drug store, she also seems to be the town's only actual black person, otherwise there's a mixed woman (Jasmine Guy) and her daughter Pearl (Erika Coleman) who Ave Maria takes under her wing at the store. Boy, I hope that it was just the makeup, bad wig and missing teeth that made Jasmine Guy look so bad and worn out, cause if not, it really is a different world! But Jenna Elfman could go back to playing Dharma in a second, and you'd believe only a year or two's gone by. Also, Elfman's character, a sexy books on wheels librarian, is really the most likable in the movie. Back to Whoopi, she should have written her own lines cause there's not an ounce of sass that bounces.
The big build up to Elizabeth Taylor and then husband, John Warner's campaign stump stop in Big Stone Gap becomes a flat awkward scene. But it was fun to learn the chicken bone choking incident was historically true. Elizabeth Taylor really had 9 Lives!
I always tell everyone, even though I give a rating, I don't consider myself a critic. That I don't like to pan or disparage the hard work and creativity which goes into getting a movie to the screen. I enjoy movies and just want to discuss them and bring out different aspects of the story, create a showcase for the film. But every once in a while that all goes out the window. Trigiani is a best selling author who has had success with a series of books based on Big Stone Gap, she's also an award winning producer of "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World", so she should understand good story telling...
T &T's LAMB Score: 1.5 outta 5
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