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This is why i so love this website ! I saw this film in the 1980's on
British television. Over the years it is one i have wished i knew more
about as it has stayed with me as one of the single most extraordinary
things i have ever seen in my life. With barely a few key words to
remember it by, i traced the film here, and much information, including
the fact it's about to become an off-Broadway musical !
Interestingly, unlike the previous comment maker, i do not remember finding this film sad, or exploitative. On the contrary, the extraordinary relationship between the mother and daughter stuck in the mind as a testimony of great strength, honour and dignity. Ironic you may think, considering the squalor of their lives. Maybe it's because i live in Britain, where fading grandeur has an established language in the lives of old money, where squalor is often tolerated as evidence of good breeding; I saw it as a rare and unique portrayal of enormous spirit, deep and profound humour, whose utterly fragile and delicately balanced fabric gave it poise and respect. In a way i was sorry to see it being discussed as a 'cult'. Over the years, as it faded in my mind, it shone the brightest, above all others as a one off brilliant & outstanding televisual experience. It was such a deeply private expose, it seems odd to think of it becoming so public as to be a New York musical. But perhaps somewhere, the daughter will be amused by such an outcome. It is she who will have the last laugh maybe..(They made a musical out of her before you Jackie O' )
A low point in human interaction was reached by the Maysles Brothers with this film. Do remember, you who used words like "masterpiece"when reviewing this film, that these Maysles creeps didn't just happen to drive to the Hamptons and happen to shoot film on some eccentric people. No, when they found these two poor pathetic people they then had to finance their project (and imagine what they told the money people to sell the project). Then they befriended the two extremely vulnerable women. No meeting of minds here or real consensual participation. These wretched Maysles smiled, kissed ass, did whatever they had to to get the Beales to cooperate and then exploited them as viciously as has ever been done. One would like to think that these hustlers had occasional thoughts of remorse and guilt. But the film-making process, given the preplanning, actual shooting and then editing took a lot of time and their goal had no provisions for actually relating to the Beales as human beings. An exploitation film perpetrated by the vilest of people. As time accrued their film-making reputation has been seriously stained by what they did here. Their reputation as human beings is execrable. That is what people will remember them as. Grotesque hustlers.
I only saw this recently but had been aware of it for a number of years and have always been intrigued by its title. It now belongs to me as one of my very favourite films. It is hard to describe the incredible subject matter the Maysles discovered but everything in it works wonderfully. It has so many memorable images and moments where you feel you are encroaching on a very private world. I fell in love with this film and with the characters in it. It is as though the filmmakers have cast a spell of the audience and drawn us into the strange world of the eccentric Beales, a true aristocratic family. It has a tangible atmosphere and I found myself wishing I could be there away from it all, cooking my corn on the cob at my bedside table. It has an air of sadness that permeates throughout. A fall from greatness for this once esteemed family. The money had gone but their airs and graces remained, as well as their beauty. It drew me in from the first frame and long after the film finished I found myself wondering about their fate. Wondering that if I took a walk along East Hampton beach I might still hear Old Edie's voice in the night and see the silhouette of Little Edie dancing in the window behind the thick hanging creeper. Unforgettable.
The daughter's words are poetry: "I can't go on another year. I got to get to a hotel room." "I lost my blue scarf in a sea of leaves." "The marble faun is moving in...he just gave us a washing machine. That's the deal." "I'm pulverized by this latest thing." "..raccoons and cats become a little bit boring for too long a time." "..any little rat's nest, mouse hole I'd like better." And there is wisdom in the mother's words: "...yes the pleasure is all mine." "This little book will keep me straight, straight as a dye." "Always one must do everything correctly." "Where the hell did you come from?" "...bring me my little radio I've got to have some professional music." "I'm your mother. Remember me?" The mother/daughter relationship is drawn in this magnificent film. This is a Mother's day film.
I knew about but had never seen Grey Gardens, before I saw the Broadway
musical of the same name. Friends cautioned me that if I had not seen
the movie, the musical would not make sense. It did, but it also
prompted me to rent the movie. At first, I thought it was a train
wreck, full of strange, shrieking characters, and it was exceedingly
hard to watch. But being able to stop it, digest it and go back to it
made me realize why Grey Gardens is considered to be a memorable
Both Big Edie and Little Edie are unforgettable and their utter lack of self-consciousness is worth witnessing. Both of them remain beautiful despite their encroaching age. They have a relationship that will chill any woman (and undoubtedly some men) and make you re- examine your own dealings with your mother. In an era when reality television and cinema is commonplace, it's fascinating to see the Mayleses' work from three decades ago, and realize what an impact the film must have had.
I echo what other posters have said: how were they allowed to slip into such squalor by their family? But beyond that, how could two people living in the 1970s be able to escape reality in such a complete fashion? Or were they simply considered too crazy to be helped? I would highly recommend watching this with the commentary track, which gave me additional insight into the film.
Grey Gardens was enthralling and crazy and you just couldn't really look away. It was so strange, and funny and sad and sick and .. really no words can describe. The move Grey Gardens is beyond bizarre. I found out about this film reading my Uncle John's Great Big Bathroom Reader, by the Bathroom Reader's Institute and it was well worth the rental and bump to the top of my movie watching queue. This movie is about the nuttiest most eccentric people that may have ever been filmed. One should watch it for their favorite Edie outfits, which I am sure include curtains. When I get old I almost wish to be just like Big Edie, thumbing my nose at normalcy and society.
From the first time I heard about this pseudo documentary, I was
fascinated and made a mental note to rent it at some point. Then I saw
that HBO is making a film based on the documentary starring Jessica
Lange and Drew Barrymore and picked it up last night.
I have to say that I don't post reviews or comments about movies, books or music unless they really move me. This film definitely affected me! In fact I am still disturbed by what I saw and the voices of these women are still burning my ears.
This film was not so much a documentary as it was a peek inside the life of two women who at some point must have been taken care of (and very well at that) by a whole host of people. People to help them clean, cook, dress etc. About 30 minutes into the film, it was obvious that Big Edie and Little Edie had once lived a life of luxury. At some point (and we are not given any information at all about their past) we can only assume that they were abandoned by Big Edie's husband and were left to their own devices to survive with very little money and even less skills to live on their own. In my experience, most documentary films move back and forth from present to past and back as a way of educating the viewer so we can understand what we are watching in some sort of context. This film and the women in it, give us no context at all. From the minute it starts, we are thrown into the world of the "Edies" and are given no information at any point about their past which can help explain the present, except through a few words while they look at old photographs. Not knowing the context can be interesting at times, but I found it hard to swallow in this case. I wanted to know what circumstances brought these two women to where they were.
I also found it difficult to understand a word that Big Edie said, and her voice was so unnerving and loud that I gave up trying to decipher anything she said. By the end, I felt like she was a bitter old woman, jealous and un-thankful of her daughter who obviously devoted years of her life to taking care of her Mother. Little Edie on the other hand was charming . A 56 year old who looked 40 and acted 17. She was so happy to have the attention of the camera and made the most of it in a funny and pathetically sad way. Smearing on her black eyeliner and drawing in her black eyebrows with a heavy hand, trying to re-claim her youth. She was a drop dead beauty in her day. It seems to me that her life was based on her looks, as though that was all she ever knew how to be... pretty. It's always disturbing to see women that attempt to deny what is natural when growing older by dressing in tight and revealing clothing and too much make-up.
This movie was an exercise in the intricate dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship who had been left with no skills to make it on their own set on the backdrop of a decaying filthy house with raccoons living freely among them and the cats pee and poop on the couch all while the Beale women are gloriously unaware of much of anything other than their own star potential thanks to their former beauty and the Bouvier name that Jacqueline Kennedy made so wonderfully famous.
I highly recommend this film if you want to be transported into another world. For me, it gave credence to the saying that truth is stranger than fiction.
Grey Gardens is shocking, amusing, sad and mesmerizing. I watched in amazement as Ediths Jr. and Sr. bickered and performed while reminiscing of their past. Their existence in a dilapidated mansion, (which they had not left for more than fifteen years) is both a comedy and a tragedy. This is a film you will not soon forget.
I first saw this movie in my plays & playwrights course at Tulane. I was awed at how beautiful and raw this documentary was. It is a sincere look into the unedited reality of a life of solitude. The family is fascinating and I thought it really showed Little Edie at her core. **As a side note My professor even told me that throughout the filming, Little Edie became infatuated with one of the camera men.** The beauty, I find, comes from the naturalness of the family's dysfunction. It is evident in the relationship between mother and daughter that neither could function in society alone and you begin to wish for Little Edie's rehabilitation to society. In all, the film is gripping in its aesthetic quality and it's portrayal of surprising beauty. Two thumbs way up!
Why should you watch this? There are certainly no reasons why you shouldn't watch it! Superbly and amusingly directed by Albert and David Maysles, Grey Gardens was originally intended to be a film on the gentrification of East Hampton, but it turned out to the brothers that it would be more interesting to produce a study on the eccentric life of the two Edith Bouvier Beales, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Their life was certainly an amusing one (Edith spent most of her day in bed singing operas, Edie performing pirouettes and majorette dances with their many cats, one was named Ted Z. Kennedy) The film is interesting because it is both funny and sad - Edith died shortly after the film was released (in February 1977) aged 82 after experiencing some of the fame that she and Edie received after the film (she danced and sang in a nightclub Edie Beale Jr was born in 1925 and is still living in Miami Beach.This film is both engaging and spellbounding.
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