Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: Big Stone Gap

Summary: Writer and director Adriana Trigiani brings her best-selling novel Big Stone Gap to the screen in a heartwarming tale of family secrets and self-discovery in a tiny mountain town during the late 1970s. Shot entirely on location in the real Big Stone Gap, Trigiani’s hometown, the film is captures the joys, the tribulations and the rewards of life deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

Ave Maria Mulligan (Ashley Judd) has lived her whole life in tiny Big Stone Gap, a picturesque coal-mining town nestled in the hollers of southwestern Virginia. When she’s not making deliveries from her family’s pharmacy to far-flung neighbors, Ave Maria directs the annual outdoor drama festival, keeps chaste company with her longtime beau, Theodore (John Benjamin Hickey), and exchanges good-natured barbs with local hunk Jack MacChesney (Patrick Wilson). Just as Ave Maria has resigned herself to life as a self-proclaimed “old maid,”she is caught off guard by a family secret, an unexpected marriage proposal and a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Big Stone Gap by movie legend Elizabeth Taylor. With everything she knows changing before her eyes, Ave Maria plans the adventure of a lifetime in Big Stone Gap, a homespun romantic comedy about small-town life, working people and the triumph of love.

A few weeks ago, I re-read and reviewed the novel BIG STONE GAP by my favorite artist (and special friend!) Adriana Trigiani. I wanted the characters and events in the book to be fresh in my mind because I would soon be seeing the movie BIG STONE GAP. I have known this movie was in the works for years and I couldn't believe it was finally on the big screen.

I had so much fun following the events leading up to the movie's release. It was great to see Adriana and the crew on various television shows like The View, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and The Today Show. I just loved the buzz surrounding the movie and I was so excited for Adriana to finally be living her dream!

The following paragraphs aren't really part of my review of the movie, but there were pretty traumatic so I thought I'd include them!

My good friend and I planned to see BIG STONE GAP at the very first showing in our local theater. I was so darn excited! Seriously, I was almost giddy as I drove to the theater. When I arrived, I jumped out of the car to buy the tickets and went to the window... and there was no BIG STONE GAP playing. The guy told me it switched to another theater last minute, and then he told me not to really depend on Fandango for film times. I almost cried -- literally cried!

Naturally, I couldn't get to the other theater in time for the showing (the showtimes were different too and the movie was actually earlier.) My friend felt so bad for me that she offered to go with me the following day. Thank goodness because I was feeling especially sad because Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) was actually watching the movie... at the first showing! I was so jealous!

Twenty-eight hours later, I was at the right theater watching BIG STONE GAP. I am definitely not a movie-goer so this was a pretty big deal. I see maybe one movie a year! After almost 15 minutes of trailers (and boy are there some good movies coming out!), the music started and Ashley Judd began speaking. It was finally happening! I sat back for the next hour and a half and just enjoyed the heartwarming story about a Ave Maria and Big Stone Gap.

Now, we all know that there is absolutely no way that I wasn't going to love BIG STONE GAP! I loved the book; and I trusted Adriana, who wrote the screenplay and directed the movie, to do justice to her novel. She definitely did. Of course, there is absolutely no way that every element of what I loved about the book could appear in the movie, but Adriana included what was important... and even a few surprises!

Needless to say, BIG STONE GAP had an amazing cast -- Ashley Judd as Ave Maria Mulligan, Patrick Wilson as Jack MacChesney, Whoopi Goldberg as Fleeta Mullin, John Benjamin Hickey as Theodore Tipton, Jane Krakowski as Sweet Sue Tinsley, Jenna Elfman as Iva Lou Wade, and Anthony LaPaglia as Spec Broadwater. I was blown away by the star power and talent, and each one of these fine actors brought their characters to life. Ashley Judd was stunning, and Whoopi Goldberg and Jenna Elfman were hilarious. It was just a fantastic ensemble of professionals!

I think what most surprised me about BIG STONE GAP was how funny it was. I thought there were some cute scenes in the novel that thad the potential to be funny, but Adriana (and the actors!) really brought out the humor in the story. There were a few one-liners (thank you Ms. Goldberg) and scenes (thank you Ms. Elfman) that were absolutely hilarious, and it felt good to be able to just get away from the chaos of daily life and smile!

A few months ago when Adriana was talking about BIG STONE GAP, she told me that this movie deserved to be on the big-screen, and I couldn't agree more. It's a wonderful story that is perfect for audiences of all ages. You can take your mom, grandmother and daughter to see it... and it will appeal to all of them. Plus, it will make them laugh and cry and just feel good about life. There aren't too many major feature films that you can say that about! In addition, the scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous. Adriana filmed the entire movie in the small town of Big Stone Gap (who does that anymore?) and it's one beautiful place as evidenced in the trailer below:

I can't recommend BIG STONE GAP enough -- both the movie and the book! It's a romantic comedy about one woman's attempt to find herself, and I guarantee it will both entertain you and touch your heart.


Kelly said...

I have been meaning to read this author FOREVER!!! And now its a movie. And I like books better, but I could see the movie and maybe then read the series. No...I need to move her to the top of my electronic stack of books!! Great review!!!

Beth F said...

I can't believe I wasn't at the theater on the day it opened. Hope to get there next week. And ARGHHHHHHHHH that you missed the first showing.

bermudaonion said...

I loved the movie too. All the actors were terrific but Patrick Wilson as Jack Mac was my favorite!