Big Stone Gap

Posted on October 8, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for brief suggestive material
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkeness
Violence/ Scariness: Tense confrontations, sad death
Diversity Issues: Ethnic diversity
Date Released to Theaters: October 9, 2015
Copyright 2015 Picturehouse
Copyright 2015 Picturehouse

Even in small towns, big things can happen. Sometimes the most famous movie star in the world stops by and makes international headlines. And even bigger things happen, too — they just don’t get into the newspapers. Adriana Trigiani’s best-selling novels about her home town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia are loving tributes to the down-home values and adorably quirky characters she grew up with. Big things happen. There are sad losses and disappointments. But there is love and honor and generosity, too. In her first feature film as a director, Trigiani has assembled a superb cast, mixing top Hollywood and Broadway talent with some locals. Ashley Judd is at the center as a woman whose discovery of a secret about her past makes her think differently about her future.

It takes place in 1978. The woman is Ave Maria Mulligan, the owner of the local pharmacy. With a name like that, there has to be a story. When her beloved mother dies, she learns for the first time that her mother’s husband was not her father, as she thought. Her mother has left her a letter explaining that her father was a man she loved in Italy. Ave is determined to find her real father, though she has never traveled anywhere. She has great friends with colorful names and personalities, especially wisecracking Fleeta Mullins (Whoopi Goldberg) and starry-eyed bookmobile librarian Iva Lou Wade (Jenna Elfman). Then there’s Theodore Tipton (John Benjamin Hickey), the high school band and choral director who works with her on the town’s legendary annual “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” pageant and is Ave’s sort-of boyfriend and a handsome coal miner with the rare ordinary name of Jack (Patrick Wilson), who has a very possessive girlfriend (Jane Krakowski as Sweet Sue Tinsley).

It takes place in an eternally cozy past where coal mining is romantic because it creates electricity and there’s no mention of black lung disease. It’s corny cornpone, but unpretentious and it goes down easy, like sweet tea brewed by sunshine.

Parents should know that this film has some sexual references including potency, paternity, and a closeted gay character and non-explicit situations, drinking and drunkenness.

Family discussion: How is Ave Maria different from the people around her? Why did her mother keep the secret so long?

If you like this, try: the book series by Adriana Trigiani and the film “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”

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