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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While in some ways Grey Gardens (1975) feels like a prototype for our
modern reality TV shows, it is much deeper and more revealing than any
reality TV show has ever been. The mother and daughter are tightly
codependent upon one another, and Little Edie in particular seems more
than a little bitter about the trajectory her life has taken.
The movie has a lot of funny lines and moments (Little Edie's dance numbers, Big Edie offering the caretaker Jerry some of her corn (boiled on her bedside table!), Little Edie feeding the raccoon, the elusive "Libra man"), but it is mainly tragic. These women are anchored to the past, looking over black and white photographs and lovely paintings of their past, while discussing how their choices affected them. They often discuss men and marriage, Big Edie ruefully mentioning that she'd take a dog over a man any day (we later learn she and her husband had a nasty separation). Yet despite the squalor these women live in, in a strange way they don't seem to miss the socialite circles they used to move within, particularly Big Eadie.
This is a strange documentary, disturbing. I don't fully know what to make of it or its subjects, but I will say it is well worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not the people who star in this wanton documentary, oh no. They have
souls and they pine for their pasts and they regret profoundly, the way
that we all do. They simply have the misfortune of having their
innermost regrets and thoughts splayed out comically for all the world
I felt for these women so acutely. They love each other and fit together like a favorite pair of well worn shoes, but their devotion to each other seems to have robbed them of the vibrancy that they used to posses. They bicker and poke at each other because it's all they have left of the joys of life, a life that was more than enough for the both of them until these movie makers decided to bring up 'what ifs' and 'could have beens' from the past. It just seemed so cruel to put them through it.
It was also unkind the way that they present the house as a dump when, from where I'm sitting, it looks like a perfectly comfortable and homey place to live. Just because these women don't adhere to the standard of the one percent doesn't make their home--full of warmth and genuine affection, a squalor shack. I cannot get behind this famed documentary because it cruelly dramatizes the wasted hopes and past dreams of a mother and daughter who lived, by any standards, a full life. Cruelty should not be regarded as art.
The illustrious apotheosis of "direct cinema" in the documentary trend,
Maysles Brothers' GREY GARDEN (Hovde and Meyer received co-directing
credit for their brilliant editing work), thrusts squarely into Big
Edie and Little Edie's life in the titular, dilapidated residence in
East Hampton. The relatively schematic newspaper articles give viewers
bare-bones information of these two women, relatives of Jackie O,
symbol of the detritus of old money, choose an eccentrically reclusive
life behind the overlaying verdancy.
Their quotidian activities encompass bickering, prating, sun-bathing on the terrace, eating can food (feeding cats and other feral inhabitants), dancing and singing to the old tunes, lamenting over their halcyon days, of which we can step by step get an overall picture by garnering from their sporadic conversations and soliloquies whereas their scuzzy living conditions continue to appall us as a side-note. Singing is Big Edie's passion, edging 80, she still can belt out enchanting oldies albeit her bedridden inconvenience. Little Edie, at the age of 57, conversely is much more agile, who seemly conjures up an effervescent persona on camera (that's cinema, whenever you are camera-ready, it defects from reality), dazzles us with her parade of head-scarfs and other get-ups, emits a convivial energy field around her notwithstanding the pestering grouse about a marriage she could never have, which adds up sympathy to the fact that she has never managed to live a life she pines for, a spinster who ostensibly sacrifices her personal life to be the caretaker of her aging mother, although the film never plies us with more data of their past apart from what they babble away incessantly on a daily base.
This creates a tinge gnawing feel, there must be grounds behind the duo's decision to carry on their decaying pattern of living, but why? Financial hurdles, mental nonchalance or it is just an inexorable process of accepting the status quo and laissez-faire (they are blessed to have fortune which is able to provide for a care-free living inside a mansion)? And what is so formidably threatening outside Grey Gardens that obstructs them from going out and severs almost all the contact from the rest of the world? That is the core question, alas, we never find a satisfactory answer from this intimate portraiture. Big Edie is obviously hobbled by her physical state, but what about Little Edie? She would sell the property after her mother's demise (in 1977) and embark on a new life (she died in 2002 at the age of 84), so what is her excuse of this self-imposed shut-in with her mother? Is their secluded status is mythified by design to gain a news-worthy appeal? One cannot help but speculate in the absence of further material of their story.
Of course, the film is a hallmark of documentary filmmaking which is meritoriously devoid of any suspicion of editorializing or exterior POVS, no spoon-feeding or emotion-manipulation, viewers can completely construct their own perspectives through those fragments of real life presented and conflated by the filmmakers, it is the closest "unadulterated truth" we can obtain from the medium of cinema. More heartwarming is that while sustain a dispassionate viewpoint, Maysles brothers show judicious protection over their subjects, however kooky they are, and unhealthy their relationship is, the daughter-and-mother pair deserve our respect, because they are courageous enough to open up, and reveal to us what humans are made up.
The Maysles brothers document the lives of eccentric recluse Edith 'Big
Edie' Bouvier Beale and her 56 year old daughter 'Little Edie'. They
live in what remains of their East Hampton Grey Gardens estate. The
house is falling apart and the gardens are overgrown. There is a young
man named Jerry. The ladies were a part of high society at one point
and Edie had dreams of being a performer. They faced eviction threats
from the local Health Department until they are rescued with funds from
niece and cousin Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
There are difficulties in watching this movie. The sound quality has a hollowed ring like an older recording. It does ramble on as the two ladies talk and sing among themselves with the filmmakers. This is an insight into these fascinating people but it's not like a movie with a plot. I can see actors looking at these unique personalities and have fun mimicking them. Ultimately, the surface is interesting but it's hard to watch all the way to the end. We're digging through the ruins of somebody's life.
I learn lot of life lesson from this best documentary ever ) I
continuously note while watching it and it's like more then 3 pages
that i noted in to. Some of here ))
Read more books
Have a long Vision
Do everything that you want while you are young,i mean age doesn't matter if you are young at your heart too )Respect every age )
Have your own opinion,choice and decision about your life. Don't miss anything and due to your present circumstances so no excuse later.
Love what you do,love music, whatever that makes you happy in every moments.
Surround yourself with love,take responsibility,money matters so work hard ))
Take care of yourself ,go to gym every morning or whatever,don't be lazy ))
Life partner is huge thing )So think about it ))
Accomplish your dreams as fast as you can))Line on face is truth so if you win or loose doesn't matter,don't scared of anything specially from those people who not believe in you )Just do it now for you ))time is everything ))
Keep best books as your best friend which inspire you to go forward ))Collect best memories all time ) Make them ))
See yourself as great human )Believe in that and be that ))
Be Professional in your work ))Be great ))
Enjoy your life,think out of box and do something amazing,have desire to do something that make this world more better place ))
Love and peace ))Dance and music ))#liveyourlife #loveyourlife #beGrateful #stayAwesome
Thanks a lot both Edith ))) I never thank you enough ))
... such as what happened to the Bouvier/Beale money that bought the 28
room mansion that mother and daughter live in and is in disrepair? I
know that Big Edie was divorced in 1931, and it sounded like "little
Edie" had the advantages of an expensive education through college,
which would have been right before WWII. What changed? There is no
narration here, nor do the documentary makers ask questions. They just
let the cameras roll and record whatever happens. Big Edie is in her
late 70s yet retains a kind of beauty. However, she talks over little
Edie whenever they are in the same room, making it difficult to
understand either woman.
What is clear visually is that they are both living in squalor. A cat defecates behind a very old portrait of Big Edie and both Edies laugh about being glad somebody gets to do what they want? Nobody tries to clean it up. Big Edie spends her time on a filthy mattress with stuff she might need stacked on top, yet seems to have no trouble with mobility. They make food for the cameramen including pate on crackers that looks like cat food on crackers. I would want a tetanus shot first.
Little Edie has a mountain of regret. She talks about how she wanted to be a dancer, how somebody wanted to marry her but her mother drove him away, and how she has been taking care of her mother due to her health on and off since the second world war. She mentions how much she hates the country and misses the noise of the city. Little Edie is remarkably well preserved. When this film was made she was 56 but she could pass for forty. She color coordinates all of her wardrobes including her scarves and headdresses that hide her alopecia, yet she won't mop the floor. Shades of faded feelings of being aristocracy perhaps?
Another question I had that went unanswered was where were big Edie's sons? Both lived into the 1990's, yet they are nowhere to be found. Maybe they had the sense to get out of Dodge.
Why are these recluses the subject of a documentary in the first place? Because big and little Edie are Jackie Kennedy Onnasis' aunt and cousin, respectively, and because Suffolk County was trying to evict them based on the condition of the house and grounds - there was no running water at one point - until Jackie supplied the funds to get the estate up to snuff.
Don't look for lots of answers here, because there are really none. It is just a fascinating portrait of two recluses who have slipped into their own form of normality although it looks horrifying to outsiders.
An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live their eccentric lives in a filthy,
decaying mansion in East Hampton.
Plenty has been written and said about the Kennedy family, and Irish political dynasties, but far less is out there about the Bouvier (?) family... and these odd black sheep of the family make me want to know more. I had never heard of them. How is that possible? This documentary has been floating around for forty years, and is really mandatory viewing for anyone who is interested in either Kennedy, the Hamptons or mental illness.
"Big Edie" died in 1977 and "Little Edie" sold the house in 1979 for $220,000 to Sally Quinn and her husband, former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who promised to restore the dilapidated structure (the sale agreement forbade razing the house). "Little Edie" died in Florida in 2002 at the age of 84. According to a 2003 article in Town & Country, after their purchase, Quinn and Bradlee completely restored the house and grounds.
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