'Big Stone Gap' is one of those films that flew under the radar for most people, but had a stellar cast and a heartwarming story. Similar to 'Gilmore Girls' in that a small town with cheery simple folk live simple, friendly lives, 'Big Stone Gap' is entertaining enough with its honest and genuine portrayal of small town life in Virginia where good times and true love can begin later in life.
'Big Stone Gap' is one of those rare films where the director of the film is also the writer of not only the screenplay, but of the original novel. One of the only recent cases of this is 'Perks of Being a Wallflower'. This director/author is an Italian woman named Adriana Trigiani and put a lot of her life in this film, which is sweet and endearing to see where there are no zombies or meth cookers to spice things up. Instead, this is about the finer and uncomplicated things in life, which is always nice to see every now and again.
The film takes place in the real location called 'Big Stone Gap' where Ave Maria (Ashley Judd) is a 40-year old woman who works at her family's pharmacy with her good friend Fleeta (Whoopi Goldberg). Ave though is known as a spinstress in this small mining town, where everyone participates in an annual stage play. This year, Ave is directing the play, which is really the only thing she is looking forward to. She's not in love, she hasn't been to many places, and her mother has just died.
Ave is thrown a curve ball when she gets ahold of her mother's will, where she discovers her past and who she really is, which sets her off to find love and happiness, even in the smallest of towns, like 'Big Stone Gap'. A couple of her suitors are Jack (Patrick Wilson), who has always had a crush on her, and Theodore (John Benjamin Hickey), who is a fun guy, but doesn't seem to be a good match.
What Trigiani is saying here is that you can find happiness and love, no matter how old you are or where you live. It is always just around the corner. 'Big Stone Gap' doesn't deal with big action sequences or big change in anyway, but rather shows us that small town living can be just as good and fun as the big city where people work on their relationships and try to find their inner self with some comedy and drama along the way.
There are a few moments where the film goes off on tangents with the vast amount of characters. It almost seems like the book had so much to say, that the film didn't have enough time to get it all in, but it certainly tried. That being said, 'Big Stone Gap' is true to itself and very charming when it's on the right path. With other cameos , including Jenna Elfman, Anthony LaPaglia, Jane Krakowski, and Chris Sarandon, this A-list cast and beautiful story, make 'Big Stone Gap' worth watching if you want a simple and adorable film.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Big Stone Gap' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and a digital copy download code and is Region A locked. The disc is housed in a hard blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. There are no inserts other than the digital download code.
'Big Stone Gap' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This film was shot digitally and offers an excellent color palette that features all of the gorgeous fall leaves in Virginia. The detail is sharp and vivid throughout as well, with great closeups of the actors faces that show wrinkles, makeup blemishes, individual hairs, and facial lines clearly. The wider shots of the beautiful town and its landmarks looks amazing here as well, giving away every detail.
Colors are mostly natural and boast excellent fall colors with some bright primaries popping off screen from time to time. Black levels are deep and inky, although there were a couple instances of some crush, but it's hardly worth mentioning. The flesh tones are natural as well here. There was some minor banding here and there and some video noise that cropped up. Other than that, this video presentation does just fine, given the type of movie it is.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and sounds good for not being an all-out action movie. This is more or less a dialogue driven film, so most of the sound comes from the center speaker, which is always well-layered and robust. The ambient noises and sound effects come through nicely on the surround and rear speakers, but not all that often.
Nature sounds and small city noises are lively in the bigger moments. There is one big sound burst when an explosion happens on stage, which has some heft to it, which was nice. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills. The score never drowns out any of the dialogue or sound effects either. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this audio presentation with solid marks.
Virginia Film Festival Q&A with Cast (HD, 6 Mins.) - The best of moments from the cast and crew, discussing the film.
Cast and Crew Interviews (HD, 4 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about making the movie, characters, and story.
Hollywood Celebrates 'Big Stone Gap' (HD, 3 Mins.) - This looks at the small town in Virginia and the monster that is Hollywood, coming together for the premiere.
On Virginia (HD, 4 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about how much they love Virginia.
Virgina Film Festival Panel (HD, 3 Mins.) - A short promo reel about the film.
'Big Stone Gap' is a decent coming-of-age film for the middle-aged crowd, one that mixes a good amount of comedy, romance, and melodrama into a genuine story. There are some good performances by the cast, and the small town of Virginia will make you want to book a trip there. The video and audio presentations are both good, and the extras are worthy of your time if you're a fan of the movie. This is an endearing film with some good moments and a big fun cast. Recommended!