In Thomas Bezucha’s stupefyingly benign Big Eden, Henry (Arye Gross), a partnerless gay New York painter, leaves his doting gallery rep and football-field-sized Brooklyn loft behind to tend to an ailing grandfather (George Coe) in Montana. Big Eden, the small town where Henry was raised, resembles nothing so much as an L.L. Bean catalog spread: It’s all luminous lakes, polished pine, and flawless flannel, with nary an unemployed mill worker or militia group in sight. Once there, Henry attempts to rekindle a relationship with Dean (Tim DeKay), his high school flame, but the real sparks fly when a Native American store clerk named Pike (Eric Schweig, brooding dutifully) develops a crush on the artist. A demolition derby of misunderstandings and temporary resentments occurs before Henry and Pike finally lock lips at a hootenanny.
With its gently hip country music score and soft, dusky cinematography, Big Eden is too sweet by half. Yet it also pivots on the flabbergasting premise that the rural Northwest is unequivocally gay- and lesbian-friendly; even the grizzled idlers rooted in Pike’s store help him woo Henry. Though this may be intended as giddily utopian wish-fulfillment, there’s something vaguely irresponsible about the movie’s naïveté. Not to make too big a fuss, but did Bezucha forget that Wyoming is just across Montana’s southern border?