Sunday, October 11, 2015
"Big Stone Gap": a real place deep in the Virginia coal country, and a bizarre indie comedy set in pre-tech 1978
“Big Stone Gap” is a town in extreme southwestern Virginia, in Wise County, deep in coal country. And the 2014 dramedy film by Adriana Trigiana is filmed there and set there, set in pre-tech 1978.
Ashley Judd plays Ave Maria Mulligan, a spinster living in an inherited house and running a family town pharmacy. After her mother dies, she learns a family secret about her own birth that can threaten everything she has, and indeed an older couple goes after her in court. So the film deals, in a way, with the “dead hand” issue that could crop up on anyone depending on inherited family wealth.
Patrick Wilson (looking a little more weathered than before) plays Jack MacChesney, the 40-something bachelor coal miner pestered about getting married, and in fact he has chased Sweet Sue (Jane Krakowski). There’s an early scene with an underground coal mine explosion, where he is slightly hurt, but not a lot is made of the coal issues (since in 1978, coal was still king). There's a quirky episode where Elizabeth Taylor visits and chokes on food.
There’s also the outdoor drama “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” (link), also the name of a major highway in the area. And there is a BookMobile, an artefact of a time when public libraries ran them and when copies of books were more valued by consumers than they often are now in the digital age (an issue for me as an author myself).
The short story “Expedition”, appears as chapter 8 of my own “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book, and also is set in this area (although more toward Norton, Clinchwood, and Pikeville KY, and even Breaks Interstate Park). In my story, three characters come into the area from elsewhere and all learn something from their interaction, and also from the stripmining issue in the area (now mountaintop removal). My story is set in 1972.
The author’s site for the movie is here.
The film is distributed by Picturhouse, a New Line subsidiary which it is good to see back.
I saw the film at Regal Kingstowne in Alexandria, VA, before a small Sunday night audience.
Picture, mine, on VA-KY state line (2005), near Black Mountain, I think on US 52.