The Maysles brothers pay visits to Edith Bouvier Beale, nearing 80, and her daughter Edie. Reclusive, the pair live with cats and raccoons in Grey Gardens, a crumbling mansion in East Hampton. Edith is dry and quick-witted - a singer, married but later separated, a member of high society. Edie is voluble, dresses - as she puts it - for combat in tight ensembles that include scarves wrapped around her head. There are hints that Edie came home 24 years before to be cared for rather than to care for her mother. The women address the camera, talking over each other, moving from the present to events years before. They're odd, with flinty affection for each other. Written by
Very Sad, Very Human, Oft Funny...but with a whiff of exploitation
I was speechless and devastated after my first viewing of this - many parts of GREY GARDENS are very funny and unbelievably surreal - documentary of not, this really gives Fellini or David Lynch a run for their money in the weirdsville sweepstakes. I kept focusing on how these women (who are clinically way beyond eccentric) reveal their own humanity in the most surprising of ways, and I wonder whether their retreat from the world was prompted by something beyond the stuffiness of life in the unreal blue-blood universe, perhaps some abuse, or perhaps simply a streak of defiance and rebellion that spiralled out of their control and took on a life of its' own. This might be one of the greatest ever films that comes dangerously close to exploitation, without going completely over the edge - as the Edies do their thing, I kept noting things like the empty gin bottles in the rubble-strewn bedroom, cats urinating on the bed, racoons emerging from holes in the walls, and the final scene seemed incredibly sad - like a child's birthday party gone seriously wrong. Very definitely worth seeing and seeking out - you'll never forget it, but very disturbing.
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