Friday, October 09, 2015

Movie set in coalfield town of Big Stone Gap, Va., is mostly believable, in-state critic says

Ashley Judd and Patrick Wilson, the film's love interests
The film "Big Stone Gap" opens today in 274 theaters, reports Glenn Gannaway of The Post in the southwest Virginia coal town of 5,600 that is the locle of the romantic comedy, set in 1978 and based on the novel of the same name by local native Adriana Trigiani.

"It has an impressive cast, all of whom reportedly took minimum salaries to get it made. They include Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jenna Elfman, Jane Krakowski and Anthony LaPaglia," film critic Mal Vincent writes for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. "In spite of the actual plot of the movie, the wake-up call comes when the local folks learn that Elizabeth Taylor is coming to town. They plan a welcome they hope will rival Cleopatra's entrance into Rome. The local drug store, owned by Ave Maria Mulligan (Judd) and run by Fleeta Mullins (Goldberg), spruces things up in case Taylor might stop by for an aspirin. Those of us who have been around long enough remember the mania."

"For all of the movie's warmth, the setting sometimes raises an eyebrow," Vincent writes. "The corn is as high as an elephant's eye even though we are in Virginia, not Oklahoma. Things also sometimes venture dangerously close to the kind of hillbilly-bashing of things like 'Ma and Pa Kettle' and 'The Beverly Hillbillies.' But, for the most part, it stays believable, although the low budget at times shows. The writer stays away from the coal mines and any drama they might suggest. This is not the kind of movie, or novel, that is going to deal with the problems of organized labor. It's the sort of story that, one critic wrote in referring to the novel, 'is as comforting as a patchwork quilt and as charming as a country cottage. 'Yeah. That's kinda it. These are good ol' country folk—the kind you don't often see in the movies. Y'all come." To read other reviews of the film, click here and here.

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The town is planning a big celebration Saturday with the stars and "and the hundreds of people who participated in filming two years ago, either in front of the camera or behind the scenes," Gannaway reports. "Other celebrities expected are novelist Barbara Kingsolver and possibly several other writers, and the film’s composer John Leventhal and wife Rosanne Cash."

Saturday's events included a press conference with Judd, Wilson and others. For a report from Robert Sorrell of the Bristol Herald Courier, click here.

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