Proof that January is an especially long month is in the fact that this is the fifth film we’ve reviewed within it. And what a way to go out!
Like, I’m officially obsessed with the world of the two Edies and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to delve in. Without further ado, my darlings.
Grey Gardens (1975)
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.
Ohmigod, I die. I just die. Grey Gardens is the amazing story of broke-arse double act, Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale who live in a dilapidated mansion of the same name. Grey Gardens, that is.
Aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, their bonkers story first came to light when people found out they were living in abject poverty, while the once magnificent house rotted to the ground around them. I guess nobody can resist the tale of riches to rags, eh?
We meet them when documentary makers David and Albert Maysles visit with their cameras and follow them around, basically letting them do their own thing. This style of film making is made for characters as large as the two women and it’s a joy to behold.
The stories these women share are at once spectacular, funny and desperately sad as it becomes increasingly clear that Little Edie is desperate to get out on her own, where her life can begin again. Big Edie’s ever decreasing health keeps Little Edie home and it’s actually heartbreaking to watch.
The Little Edie we see before us is very different to the girl who claims she nearly married a Kennedy herself. Once absolutely striking and a fashion model in NYC, the still handsome Edie is now completely bald having suffered from alopecia. Not that we see this for ourselves, as she is firmly rocking an enviable collection of headscarves. She has some very strong aesthetic ideas.
This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand. Because I don’t like women in skirts and the best thing is to wear pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape. So I think this is the best costume for today. ~ Little Edie
Big Edie is less likable but is this because I feel she ruined her daughter’s life? She was once as she never tires of telling us, a great singer and performer but is now more or less bed bound. Both Edies have a penchant for performance, breaking into song regularly. Little Edie likes a shimmy too.
The women bicker constantly then make up and it’s a somewhat toxic environment in which Edie does most of the donkey work and they have next to no money. I can’t imagine how they survive to be honest, and yet they feed what seems like hundreds of cats.
There’s not an awful lot more I can really say about this film as it all hangs in the relationship between the Edies. Both are as eccentric as it gets and there’s something very sad about how they live, though Big Edie swears she has had a very happy life. Little Edie swears her time is almost done at Grey Gardens but it doesn’t feel like she’ll ever escape her mother’s perpetual guilt trip.
And for all the sympathy you feel for their situation, the two are really quite grotesque. Is it their complete lack of self-awareness, or is it literally that they are swimming around in their own filth? I guess I’ll leave that one up for you to decide.
Grey Gardens to me is the tale of a life unfulfilled thanks to a mother’s smothering love. It’s the story of untapped potential, sacrifice and I don’t know what else. All I really do know is that you can’t make this shit up.
Watch it to find out more please. You won’t regret it.
5/5. C’est Magnifique! Fun, fun, fun and crackers.
What does Queen Jillian think of this set up? Does she think it deserves its moment in the sun or would she rather see it condemned? Well, find out here, obviously. ❤
Ps. I got so into the two Edies that immediately afterwards I watched the HBO TV adaptation starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange (I don’t like going out or other people, alright?!).
It’s a pretty accurate re-imagining, inter-spliced with flashbacks of both women’s younger years, the break up of Big Edie’s marriage and Little Edie’s fling with a married man. I enjoyed it very much indeed and it makes a great companion piece to the original documentary.