'Big Stone Gap' is disappointingly too slow and meandering movie fare

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

Written and directed by Adriana Trigiana, "Big Stone Gap," pays homage to Trigiana's home town Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The screenplay was written over 20 years ago, but she felt that writing a book to go along with it would help her sell the movie. The idea worked, but much more than she expected. After her novel "Big Stone Gap," she kept on writing and became a bestselling novelist. Now, her screenplay is finally a completed film.

"Big Stone Gap," stars Ashley Judd as a small town spinster Ave. She is having a hard time finding her place in the small town that she loves. After the death of her mother, her yearning for a bigger personal life becomes greater. She has a long-time relationship with a great friend Theodore (John Benjamin Hickey), but there is no physical attraction between the two. Giving her final pause, she learns something earth shattering about her past. Various friends in Big Stone Gap try to help Ave make her way, but it takes a dream after a long slumber to give Ave the direction she needs. Little does she know that a great surprise is on her way.

"Big Stone Gap," seems to play against the times. Being a romantic comedy when the genre is altogether having problems does not help this film. But the story itself seems dated and it's plausible that Trigiani did not do a rewrite of the script before production. The film plays very slow, perhaps paced that way on purpose to fit a small town feel - but for moviegoers it's painful.

At a recent Q&A event, Trigiani's friend and co-star of the film, Jasmine Guy, suggested that the story may have been better suited for a long treatment via HBO. Guy may be on to something. She also suggested that by being a series on the smaller screen, some of the small town characters could be give more air time, which would enhance the overall story. Although it would need a rewrite of the dialogue (which is the main culprit of slowing the film), Guy may be onto something.

Romantic comedies still do have a place in theaters, but the writers of such movies must think more modern for success - even if the story takes place in the past. I really wanted to like "Big Stone Gap," as kinder and more simpler stories are needed, but unfortunately it just didn't make the grade. Perhaps Trigiani's readers will been more keen to see the film.

"Big Stone Gap" is rated PG - 13 for brief suggestive material and has a runtime of 103 minutes.


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