Remember the good old days of small town USA in 1978? The days when a woman could settle down with a manly men smelling of testosterone and dirt after a hard day at the coal mines. An era when white women ran pharmacies with kindly black women. That era just after women figuring out they could choose not to get married, but still regretted the lack of companionship. Those days when the gays had the respect to be closeted and slept with women.
If you spend your days watching the Hallmark Movie Channel – I can’t begrudge you the actual Hallmark Channel which features a two hour block of The Golden Girls 6 nights a week followed by a two hour block of Frasier – while reminiscing of those simpler times, then you will love Big Stone Gap, a new movie about bygone eras when coal mining was still a valuable occupation.
Life was much simpler back then, especially for spinster Eva (Ashley Judd) who spends her time directing the annual town pageant and running her family’s pharmacy. The town pageant is a simple play about some idiot running up a mountain, but putting it together is such kindly chaos. Especially when you have those morally loose women as actresses and running the box office. They’re always being hounded by the men, hoo doggy.
The pharmacy is a delight for Eva, especially with the help of Fleeta (Whoopi Goldberg), the kindly black lady who actually makes things run while Eva is off delivering the medications. Of course, since Eva is always out of the shop, she hires poor little Pearl Grimes (Erika Coleman), a put upon black girl from the wrong side of the tracks, to help Fleeta around the shop.
As soon as everything seems to be running smoothly, Eva finds herself torn between big dumb lug Jack MacChesney (Patrick Wilson) and her gay actor lover who accepted a position teaching at a University. Then, her mother dies and she finds out that her real father is in Italy(?!), leading to a mini war between Eva and her greedy Aunt (her now-step-father’s sister).
It’s all very dumb and very expected. Big Stone Gap just asks you to listen to its story without thinking about it much. I just…there’s not much to say other than that I’m really surprised there were so many semi-famous names in this. On top of the ones mentioned above, there’s also Jane Krakowski, Jenna Elfman, Judith Ivey, Jasmine Guy, Chris Sarandon, Anthony LaPaglia, Paul Wilson, Mary Pat Gleeson, and John Benjamin Hickey.
Everything about this movie is perfectly genteel and mannered. Except it goes exactly where conservative people want it to go. Let’s just say that this movie opens with Eva giving the voice over and closes with a man giving a voice over. This movie comes with all the feminism that type of change implies.