Recently a friend and co-worker invited a few of us to his house for a movie night. The feature film was "Big Eden."
The DVD was released 4 years ago but had somehow escaped my notice. I'm so glad that someone finally brought this gem to my attention.
Big Eden is a utopian fiction about a successful New York artist who returns to his tiny Montana hometown to care for his ailing grandfather. The artist is gay, but having grown up in a small, rural community, he never felt the need to "come out" to his family or friends. But he learns that the 12 step proverb is true: we are as sick as our secrets.
Being "home" again reminds him how genuinely fond he is of the friends, neighbors, and relatives of his formative years. Soon, the entire community figures out his "secret" and immediately begins a conspiracy to couple him up with the owner of the general store ("Pike") who is both painfully shy and desperately in love with our artist hero.
There are twists and turns along the way, of course. Once a boy has seen Paris (or the Big Apple in this case), how can you keep him down on the farm? We expect that the artist will return to his fabulous cosmopolitan life in New York. We also suffer through the tension of him being reunited with his recently divorced childhood heterosexual best friend for whom he has longed for 20 years.
By the end, the straight friend has coupled up with the young and pretty fiddle playing mayor of the small town and our artist has decided to stay in Big Eden, MT with his new and true love, the general store owner.
So far, a romantic comedy with a gay twist isn't that unique. But that this takes place in a small, rural, presumably conservative area where love is real enough that social taboos and prejudices never materialize in a significant way is what makes this film a true work of fiction. Everyone wants everyone else to be happy. Everyone wants to be truly who he or she is. Everyone wants to form a community where everyone is safe and valued. The final scene in the movie shows the artist and his new partner dancing together and kissing at a community picnic. Not only is no one offended, many are noticeably pleased that two more people in the world have found love and happiness.
Big Eden isn't how life is for many gay people, especially in the hinter lands. But is how life ought to be. And as long as we continue to work and pray for the day to come, it just may be how life will be. That will truly be a day for celebration.