Writer-director Thomas Bezucha has chosen an ideal title for his debut film, which establishes an Eden in Big Sky Country. The fictitious town of Big Eden, Montana, is a model of good-natured tolerance which hasn’t been seen since the Cicely, Alaska, of "Northern Exposure", and it’s a wonder that Henry Hart (Arye Gross) ever wanted to escape. But leave he did, moving to New York City, becoming a successful painter (of celestial formations seen from rural Montana but not Manhattan) and feeling that he could be himself within an established gay community.

The stroke suffered by his grandfather, Sam (George Coe), Henry’s only living relative, sends him back to Big Eden, where he’s embraced by the community and stalwart family friend, Grace Cornwell (Louise Fletcher). Awkwardly, Henry reestablishes ties to his former best friend, Dean Stewart (Tim DeKay), now a divorced father of two sons who’s returned home. Henry has loved Dean for 20 years or so, and this unrequited passion has determined the course of his life.

Interestingly, the Henry-Dean story isn’t the sole focus. Big Eden is very much an ensemble film, which reflects the community spirit Bezucha is trying to establish. But one person does stand out: Pike Dexter (Eric Schweig), the painfully introverted Native American owner of the local store. Pike’s increasingly deep feelings for Henry — who often can’t see the forest for the trees — drives the narrative as the townsfolk conspire to bring them together.

Yes, Big Eden is a fairy tale: a beautiful place (it was filmed around Glacier National Park) where well-intentioned people cook gourmet food, listen to good country music and think nothing of two men dancing in public. It’s a pleasant vacation, leaving behind pettiness, hatred, cruelty and bad taste for a lovely vision of rural bliss.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.

Click here to visit the official Big Eden Web site

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].

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