“I’ve loved you since the sixth grade.” That, followed by the delivery of a great big smooch on the adored one’s adorable lips.
How should one respond to such a situation? “Big Stone Gap” will tell you how, by crickey. With massed cheers, wild applause and a misty eye or three.
This a picture that comes with its own built-in cheering section, and in that scene it demands that you too join in the giddy feel-goodness of the moment.
The time is 1978 and the lead character, Ave Maria Mulligan (Ashley Judd), announces herself as “the old maid of Big Stone Gap.” She’s 40, runs the local drugstore and is a friend to all in the little Virginia coal mining town of the title, which is writer-director Adriana Trigiani’s hometown.
Town tongues have been wagging at her single state for years. There’s a sexy miner (Patrick Wilson) who’s been sweet on her for about ever, and a fellow who works with her in the local amateur theatrical productions (John Benjamin Hickey) with whom she’s been involved in an off-and-on relationship. Will sweet Ave find true love in the end? Come on. Do you really have to ask?
The town is full of quirky characters with precious quirks, including a store clerk played by Whoopi Goldberg who stands on the sidelines dispensing sardonic observations about the foibles of quirked-up others.
It’s tempting to say “Big Stone Gap” is greeting card pretty and sweet, but that doesn’t quite fit because these days greeting cards seem to have developed a bit of an edge. “Big Stone Gap” is edge-free. So much so that when Trigiani abruptly introduces a hectoring aunt to plague the sweet-natured Ave, the moment is beyond jarring. Who is this ogre, and what’s she doing in this fairyland?
BIG STONE GAP
☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg and Jane Krakowski.
Director: Adriana Trigiani.
Running time: 1:43.
Rated: PG-13, for brief suggestive material.