The lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith, aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.The lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith, aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.The lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith, aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The HBO film fills in many of the pieces--with heartbreaking detail. Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore are nothing short of astonishing in their reincarnation of this tragic mother and daughter duo. We see their elegance, their fragility, the tricks that life played on them--with vivid detail. The easy fluidity between the past and the present makes for a riveting drama that resonates almost as much as the original documentary. But there is a difference--in the documentary, there was much more humor--Big Edie and Little Edie were characters, and you felt sorry for them--yet you really noticed their resilience and delight at life. Yes they were caught up in the past with their obsessive dwelling on events from that distant golden age of their's--but they also seemed to relish their relationship, their day-to-day coping, their ice cream, their animals--it was really not THAT sad! The movie is much more heartbreaking--because we see the glamorous lives they led--and the contrast with the emptiness of their final denouement in Grey Gardens feels overwhelmingly sad. We suspected that especially Little Edie was mentally ill in the original--delusional--paranoid. In the film, there is no doubt. She was helpless from the beginning.
Pieces have been filled in--but there are still empty pieces that abound--the role Little Edie's brothers had or didn't have in their lives, how the wealthy relatives so completely ignored or were unaware of their living conditions--why the Edies so completely retreated from the "real world" when people with much more heartbreaking situations (and much less of a moneyed background) can not only cope but overcome---these are all still mysteries which will probably never be answered--can only be speculated upon--and which will allow "Grey Gardens"--both the documentary, and now the film--to retain an enduring mystique and fascination.
- Apr 19, 2009