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|Index||51 reviews in total|
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!
Excellent film showing the pathetic lives of two nutty old ladies. They couldn't live together, nor apart. Babbling constantly, sometimes at the same time, they hashed and re-hashed the past; going on and on about what coulda shoulda woulda. I found myself laughing at times, but mostly I was taken with how utterly sad and abandoned these two women were. See this one.
In the early 1970's socialite Lee Radziwell commissioned the Maysle
brothers to shoot a documentary on her life. During some preliminary
research they discovered the Beales, close relatives of both Lee and
her sister Jacqueline Onassis. "Big Edie" Beale and "Little Edie"
Beale, Jackie O's aunt and first cousin, respectively, were living in
seclusive squalor in a rat- and raccoon-infested, crumbling 28-room
mansion in East Hampton, New York named Grey Gardens. Over the years,
both mother and daughter had become increasingly cut off from the
world, living on a meager $300 a month (in one of the richest
neighborhoods in the world, no less), and supplementing this allowance
by selling off family valuables. The eccentric duo came within a hair's
breadth of eviction because the local board of health, after a series
of raids provoked by reprehending neighbors, threatened to demolish
their mansion. Fortunately family ties never unbind, as Jackie's hubby
came to the rescue with a $25,000 check for the cleanup and renovation
of the property.
This is just backstory, covered by the Maysles in the first five minutes by way of newspaper cutouts. The Maysles don't conduct any interviews with the Beales' neighbors, Jackie O, or Lee Radziwell (who, by the way, canceled that commission upon their discovery of her family secret). They spent just six weeks with the Beales, recording frequent spats between mother and daughter and reminiscences of society life and failed romances. The focus is largely trained on "Little Edie," who in younger years was a beautiful model wooed by some of the richest men in the world. The only people we see besides the two heroines are a young handyman named Jerry Torre whom "Little Edie" nicknames, after the Hawthorne novel, The Golden Faun (at one point, not knowing the Faun plays for the other team, she complains to her mother about his intentions); and a couple bewildered-looking people who come to Grey Gardens to celebrate "Big Edie's" birthday. But mostly it's just mother and daughter, lazing away in their otherworldly idyll.
A completely absorbing documentary. Albert Maysles later took another look at the Beales in The Beales of Grey Gardens, which was released in 2006 and made up entirely of unused footage that didn't make the cut the first time around.
I really can't remember who recommended this, but they said it was one
of their favorite films. It is certainly a strange one - like
rubbernecking at a highway accident.
Someone said that truth is stranger than fiction, and the truth here is something to see. I really can't understand how a fictionalized account of this documentary is to be released this year. How can you improve on this? The aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy remove themselves from New York Society and hide in the Hampton's. In the process they become recluses and what is best described as "crazy cat ladies." They would have stayed hidden had not the city move to condemn the property for the filth and the subsequent rescue by Jackie. This film was done after that rescue. All during, you couldn't help but think, "how bad was it before?" It's a look at high society from the darker side, and it is utterly fascinating.
The review title is offensive? Well, you might have the same opinion if
you view the film with an analytical mind. I know and have read about
all the fans of this film that are fans of the Beale's as well. That is
all well and good, but its beside the point.
The Mayles Bros are not slouches and have a very good nack for cinematography and documentation (otherwise they would have not been involved in so many major documentaries). This film does itself justice by showing off that gift. What it doesn't do itself justice with is its exploitation of its subjects.
I know I won't get a lot of fans for saying such (true) statements, but it has to be said. Perhaps you'll understand my rational and frame of mind for my two controversial statements thus far by considering a few questions.
Why did the Maysles take footage of little Edie prancing around the house like a child? Why were these shots often in extreme close ups? Did these shots make you feel uncomfortable? Did the Beales seem in a clear frame of mind? Would you claim the Beales to be in a healthy mental condition? Were there shots of the Beales getting close to undressing or undressing? If the questions didn't get you thinking, my basic point is the Maysles knew better than to exploit a psychologically troubled mother and child. Framing it as an empathetic slice of life is a cover for compassion trolling and humiliation porn.
The Maysels were enormously proud of the documentary "Grey Gardens" but
as a documentary of two mentally fey women of a wealthy socialite
family of note, it is a scathing critique of how some families fail to
care for their embarrassing odd members and would rather sweep them
under the carpet. Where are the "sane" members of the family who should
bring in the doctors who could have aided these women. Moreso, where is
the help to cook, clean, and tend the house that these sad ladies
ramble about in squalor? Clearly what the Maysels reveal is the mental
illness of the two co-dependent women who preen and prance for the
camera, as well as squabble, argue, and perform. Desperate for
attention, the younger Edie goes through enormous numbers of head
scarves and outfits for the camera, which is never not invisible
reflected in mirrors and on occasion in comments back with the
subjects. The elder Edie is lost in time, her belle of the ball days
gone with the wind, but nobody remembered to take home these two
decrepit prom queens. Young Edie talks to the camera all the more to
agitate the elder mother who becomes jealous at the attention her
daughter receives. The competition between mother and daughter is
obvious and sad.
If the Glass Menagerie was fiction, Gray Gardens is sadly factual as a documentary with qualifications. If someone had cared enough to get medical help for these women, it would have been humane. Sadly, they did not and only the Maysels caught the aftermath. Exploitation, yes, interesting, yes, and morbid, absolutely. The Beales were disposable women in a society that did not like to acknowledge the skeletons in the closets of the rich and famous. The Maysel Brothers dragged the Edies out of the closet and before the public which makes reality TV seem mild. That these women were the relatives of the ubber wealthy Jackie Kennedy Onassis makes their situation even more pathetic. O no, Jackie O, the Edies are spooking the horses.
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.
Despite the overwhelming cult following for this sad "documentary," I
must admit to having cordially loathed the film which struck our party
as far more a distressing exploitation piece than usefully informative.
That said, after seeing the magnificent stage musical drawn from it,
one can appreciate what the film might have been in surer hands.
One suspects that those many of us who actively suffered through the film may have had any campy delights its crueler fans enjoyed destroyed by the uncomfortable suspicion that too many of us - or those we know - are only a misstep or two away from the deplorable plight of the two mad women depicted who live in and contribute to a squalor they seem incapable of controlling or escaping.
The film leaves the viewer desperately wondering how any person could have slid to this level of degradation and, unlike the musical, offers no cautionary clues or explanations, only a horror show unredeemed by humor or insight.
This soul crushing flatness of the film makes the achievement of the stage version (hopefully to be filmed ultimately for cable) all the more remarkable. Act II is faithful in almost every detail to the film under discussion but strangely, setting the sad inmates' plight to music, raises the human tragedy to art. Even more important, this act is preceded by a fine Act I where we meet the women before their decent into mutually enabled madness, and are offered hints how their isolated purgatory came about. In short, everything which the FILM is lacking.
To the filmmakers' credit (or their successors), the excellent Criterion DVD release includes out-takes and bonus material that partially redeem the main film - behind the scenes photographs, interviews and commentary - filling in some of the blank spots the original editing consciously decided to omit in its drive for unadulterated horror and depression. They can't make the amateurish film itself satisfying, but they can at least make it a bit more comprehensible.
Ultimately though, it is only the remarkable stage piece inspired by and drawn from it by book writer Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie which raises the rating of the original GREY GARDENS above a single (generous) star.
"Grey Gardens" (1975): Documentary. In Jackie Kennedy/Onassis' family were a mother and daughter the wealthy might want to call "eccentric", but the rest of us might call "nuts". This is a visit to their once-nice, modest mansion on the ocean among the other newer mansions of the well-bred & breaded. Imagine never getting any further than maybe 100 yards from your home in 30 or 40 years, never doing a lick of maintenance, letting the ivy, rats, raccoons, weather, cats, and your own slovenly ways destroy the house, and you well you adjust as it all slowly happens, thinking it's normal. Your only company is your Mother/Daughter, you bicker constantly, while living in the past, and making up your own rules for the present. Anytime you think you (or a family member) is going nuts, rent this one, and set yourself at ease.
Fascinating yet unsettling look at Edith Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter (Little Edie) aunt and first cousin to the late Jacquelyn Kennedy Onasis. They live in a rodent infested, rundown mansion which was considered a health hazard by the city. It becomes quite clear very quickly that these two are well past eccentric. Little Edie seems to be the most off as she acts with the mindset of a ten year old even though she is actually 53. The content is pretty much made up of two things. The first are the conversations were Little Edie lambastes Big Edie for driving away all her potential suitors and ruining her aspiring career as writer, actress, and dancer. These discussions usually become very rhetorical, nonsensical, and often times amusing. The second part consists of long bouts of attempted singing by both parties. Each of course thinks their singing is perfect and it's only the other who sounds bad. In one amazing scene Big Edie actually physically attacks Little Edie with her cane just to get her to stop her warbling. Very captivating yet one gets the feeling that their is some serious exploitation going on here and the subjects are just too far gone to know it. The filmmakers seem to treat this like a freak show at the circus, coming each day to record (and chuckle) at whatever bizarre behavior may come about. Ultimately this is a sad picture as it shows how the world has simply past these two by. Their hopes and dreams as decayed as the mansion they live in. Despite their bickering these two need each other more than ever. For without the other there would be no refuge from the loneliness. Most amazing line comes from Big Edie whose many cats relieve themselves throughout her bedroom. Her response to a complaint about the smell is simply unbelievable.
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