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|Index||51 reviews in total|
In SALESMAN, we saw traveling salesmen going door to door peddling copies of The Big Book of Jewish Fairy Tales (as comedians Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Lewis Black call the bible); in GREY GARDENS, we see the Rich as they slowly rot away in their crumbling castles. This is rot as seen from the Inside. No, not "rot," per se; rather, DECOMPOSITION: slow dissolution. Slow decay, on full display. "You shouldn't have a contact with The Outside World," "Big Edie" warns her mostly bed-ridden mother before pirouetting around the house like the young child she proclaims herself to be (her obsession with her looks and her weight aren't necessarily strange, but this self-proclaimed "eternal youth" is). GREY GARDENS is often difficult to watch, simply because there's not a lot going on- and, if not for the family name, it's unlikely anyone would've EVER heard of these two recluses. I wasn't particularly moved by it, but I'm sure the late Shirley Jackson would've understood.
"Grey Gardens" is a riveting documentary about a mother and daughter
who live in their deteriorating home, having little contact with
This is a documentary in the true sense of the word, where the filmmaker does little more than document, without intent to impose a point of view. The camera merely follows the pair of women through their daily routines. On the other hand, it is impossible for the filming to not influence the behavior of the subjects, especially with Edith and Edie, who seemingly love to perform for the camera, and who enjoy having the crew around--probably because they offer a welcome interruption to their relative loneliness.
The women live with a multitude of cats. They even feed the raccoons that have breached the interior walls of the rotting mansion. Mother and daughter interact with each other as if the daughter, Edie, was a young girl. They might bicker sometimes, but each is the other's link to the past, a shared history, memories of better days.
The result is reminiscent of Miss Havisham from "Great Expectations", living as much in the past as the present.
This is a cringe-worthy effort to try to make interesting the sad lives
of two lonely people that had given up on trying to improve their lot
in life, preferring instead to look back at a more illustrious past,
and the missteps that brought them to their current condition.
Sadly, I sincerely believe hat if there had been no connection to Jackie Kennedy, this would never have received the attention, and indeed, critical acclaim it has managed to attract. This distant relationship does not redeem the film in any way.
I believe this was the Maysles' first real film, and it shows. The camera work & audio would be passable for a film-school project from the 70's, but just barely. This film could have used a lot more editing - it might have made it more watchable.
I watched this film as one would an accident on the highway; with sympathy for those involved & with gratitude that I would soon be gone.
Sorry, judging from the other reviews I am in the minority, but I've nothing good to say about it. Awful. Simply awful.
Little Edie and Big Edie are characters that anyone can feel compassion
for. Even though their house was filthy, this is somehow understandable
considering their mental illness. On the message board a poster wrote
that "Little Edie has the coping skills of an eight year old." This
reminded me of when in the dramatized 2009 version, Big Edie says to
Little Edie, "If you're stuck, it's only with yourself!" These women
had everything; beauty, talent, intelligence, firm belief in their
opinions and actions. Perhaps if Little Edie wasn't so hard on herself
the first time things didn't work out, losing her hair, her job, and
the love of her life, she would have made it. This somehow ties into
what I believe is her mental illness: her inability to pick herself up
when times are hard and see that good times lie ahead. The world will
never know what have happened if she didn't listen to her mom's plea,
"Come home, Edie! Let me take care of you!"
Yet these understandably insecure women somehow manage to be brilliant, heartbreaking, and lovable, even in their extremely filthy home. These women were extraordinary, and their interaction with each other bring humor and sadness. When Edie had one of her emotional breakdowns, dwelling about what could have been, or about how she wants to get out of her home because she feels like a little girl, one gets the intense urge to hug her and tell her that "everything will be okay!"
Living in the neighborhood, one did hear about these two old birds, the
aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. You hardly ever
saw them, but heard they resided amongst trash and cat feces. The house
looked old and neglected. Nobody mowed the lawn. It would never win
first prize in the annual L.V.I.S. (Ladies Village Improvement Society)
competition. The place looked deserted whenever you walked by, and the
Beales were not spotted around town.
In this film, "Little Edie" and mother "Big Edie" are seen sunning on the grounds. Inside, they are quite lively, singing and dancing for the exploitive cameras. Obviously, the Beales are animated for the Maysles brothers. Viewing the inside of the house reveals it wasn't as dirty as legend claimed. There were not dozens of cats in evidence, only a manageable few. They "adopted" our family cat once. Thankfully, he wore a collar listing the name "Scribble" and our telephone number...
Mrs. Onassis called, and my mother handed me the phone. Probably, she knew I would get a kick out of talking to Jackie Kennedy. In her distinctive voice Jackie said, "We have your cat, Scribble." Edie Beale has a similar voice. We went over to get the cat. Jackie was not staying at "Grey Gardens", she was in a nicer place on Lily Pond Lane. Periodically, she and sister Lee Radziwill would try to help their eccentric relatives clean up, and return the "adopted" cats to their homes.
****** Grey Gardens (9/27/75) David Maysles, Albert Maysles ~ "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, "Big Edie" Bouvier Beale
All I can say is, if you don't fall in love with Big and Little Edie after watching this movie, then you're not human! Even after watching it for the first time, I was hooked. It is a mesmerizing experience that is difficult to describe, as I'm sure other fans will attest to. After watching it, you will cry to think that these two wonderful ladies are no longer with us. At least we have Grey Gardens to remember them! I think we all long to possess the fierce independence these two ladies were graced with. Although I have always admired Jackie Onassis Kennedy, she does not stay in your heart the way Big and Little Edie do. What a rare treat to have know such people; I only wish I had!
I find it very intriguing that Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy's sister and the cousin of these women, would encourage the Maysles' to make "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" the subject of a film. They certainly could be considered the "skeletons" in the family closet. The extra features on the DVD include several contemporary fashion designers crediting some of their ideas to these oddball women. I'd say that anyone interested in fashion would find the discussion by these designers fascinating. (i.e. "Are they nuts? Or am I missing something?"). This movie is hard to come by. Netflix does not have it. Facets does, though.
A fascinating and appealing portrayal of two people, once among the camelot of the Bouvier/Kennedy period, now barely co-existing in rather depraved circumstances. A must for anyone interested in the "human condition".
It's interesting how the train of research can flow. I started out looking at an article about Cristo's "The Gates" in Central Park. The article stated that the Maysles had been Cristo's filmographers for years. Hmmm... Then I got to looking at their body of work. I believe one of them has passed on but the other is still filming Cristo and Jean Claude in their stages of creation. Grey Gardens sounded very interesting. Video Station, in Boulder CO, is the place to look for the obscure or offbeat and of course they had it in stock. DVD and VHS. Edith and Edie are women living in the past, and oh what a glorious past it was. Edith had been well off, born a Bouvier, married well, had several wonderful relationships and became a singer when she was in her forties. Her daughter Edie had been a débutante, a fashion model and had many beaus. She never married and at some point in her thirties had come home to recuperate. She seems to have a nervous disorder of some kind. Worrying too much about things. It is only a shadow of the world they live in though, because Jackie O. came and spruced up the place so her aunt and cousin would not be evicted. It is a 28 room mansion that is worn down and worn out. But, in the film you will notice fresh paint on the walls. If you look carefully at the newspaper clippings you see it was very much a dirty mess. The outfits Edie comes up with a very clever and creative. The viewer gets the impression that Edith likes to go nude, but she doesn't in the movie. Edith was really quite beautiful and you can see the shadow of her beauty still as she sings "Tea for Two". Edie too was a beauty in her day and quite attractive at 56. It was a good movie, though not for everyone. When the cat is urinating behind Edith's portait she states, " at least someone is doing what they want"!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A legendary documentary by the Maysles brothers. This melancholy look at the ruined lives of blue-blood Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie Jr. is surely one of the strangest movies ever made. Seeing these two as dirt poor and living in a decaying estate, it's difficult to believe that these ladies are relatives of Jackie Kennedy. Watching them ramble on and on, oblivious to their plight will make you feel downright queasy; the movie makes you laugh and feel bad for these women at the same time. "Little" Edie is a train wreck, lost in her own world where she's a very talented singer/dancer. The reality is not so bright. It's very sad, very bizarre and unlike anything else you'll see.
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