on June 3, 2015
Such a tremendous history and air given to the Bouvier name in this, without hardly any mention or attention to Jacqueline. Yet, throughout the observing, it's as if she's nearby. Or somehow her illustrious life is only a shade or two better than this distant relation. Even in squalor, disdain, and critical questioning - the downturn is only temporary. As long as the memories survive, the Bouvier name supersedes any dis-favorable speculation. Both their ships may have sailed long ago, but they have the endearing belief that the ocean is tending in awe of them still. Pitiful in one regard, but also diligent and optimistic in another. As long as you can live your history, you never really have to look back on it. The future shall always respect the past. And whether the viewer thinks they're crack pots, or Jackie should've diverted some of the wealth to them - they both deserve respect for what they have, are, and will be for living for time to come.
Decades before HOARDERS and the Kardashians and the cesspool of Reality TV, GREY GARDENS took an intimate look at the daily lives of two fallen women of former aristocracy: Big Edie and Little Edie Beale in this trainwreck of a documentary that shows their hilarious yet tragic co-dependency among filthy living conditions in a dilapidated mansion.
I can't say this warrants repeat viewings but once it's on you cannot stop watching. The funniest bits are the small trivial moments that demonstrate the ladies' bizarre attitudes toward everyday life like when guests arrive for a birthday party and Big Edie remarks that the dining room chairs are dirty, Little Edie simply lines them all with newspapers! Later she is seen ripping open bags of Wonder Bread to scatter in the attic for the hungry raccoons. And when a black cat is seen defecating behind a vintage oil painting of Mama Beale, she just shrugs it off and says she feels honored! Little Edie's presumable hair loss is covered by her resourceful use of various scarves, towels, sweaters and flags as fashionable headwear and her favorite outfit of choice seems to be a 1940s styled leopard print bathing suit paired with well-worn white dancing heels. Mama also favors strapless swimwear but hers succumbs to gravity at the most inopportune moments.
Both of these women are clearly off their rockers yet the picture doesn't really seem as exploitive as it could have been. Still, worth a look for fans of offbeat cinema.
on April 5, 2004
Happened to catch this on the IFC when first released...was absolutely riveted!!! I think it holds even more meaning if you are a female.......I made my mother watch it and we could not believe the similarities altho we are not like the Beale family. (I do get out..I am a flight attendant) But my mother and I are extremely close and the "dance" those two do are strikingly familiar to us....to me what is most apparent at first glance is the despiration Edie feels about leaving, she reminds me of a person that is incarcerated..time stops for them..in their emotional, mental growth. Then it makes me angry that Big Edie could ever be so selfish as to just "take" her daughters life from her..was it out of jealousy?Was it truly out of need? Did she just give up after her husband left her? You almost feel that it was all meant to be tho, especially from the way Big Edie describes her sons, she saw them so differently than she saw Edie. And then,times were so different for women back then.Excellant movie,I am sure the Kennedy and Bouvier Families were mortified!!! But we love them!!! It would be wonderful to see such individuality in everyone!
on December 6, 2003
The old woman (Big Edie) and the her elder daughter (Little Edie), both confined to a large, old, decrept home, focused on lost memories and events that never happened.
Little Edie is largely focused on her youth, wishing that she had taken up opportunities in the past that she turned down. Her mother, Big Edie, tells her daughter that her regret over not doing things in the past is meaningless because back then, Little Edie genuinely did not want to do those things. That is perhaps one of the most philosophical moments in the documentary.
This film is very revealing, and it is a truly intimate portrayal of two women. You learn more about then perhaps than you otherwise would in a typical documentary that asks why they are important, what is their significance to their rich and well-known relative, Jackie O, and how did they end up in this situation.
This movie will be implanted in the public persona for many years to come, particularly because of the radical fashion sense of Little Edie, and also because she demonstrates that people do change their behavior, if even slightly, once a camera is nearby.
on May 19, 2003
Being a biography buff, I was familiar with Kennedy-Bouvier lore but somehow had skipped right over any reference to Big and Little Edie. When I saw the documentary on Sundance Cable and ordered the DVD I instantly became enthralled with these two fascinating characters. I have watched the film many, many times, and feel that I have discovered friends that I want to protect and care for (although reality forces me to accept that they are gone forever, and it is as if family members have left me). After each viewing I don't want to leave their home and presence. The emotion I feel for them is amazing, running amok. That the Maysles have been able to capture real lives and real character this way is phenomenal. You will love the Beales, be entertained by them, then suffer and hurt for them. With all your heart you want them to be okay and you make yourself believe that somewhere Big Edie sings a melody written in adoration of her by Gould while Little Edie dances, with her scarf made of rainbows fluttering about her head of glorious hair.
on January 29, 2002
There is nothing like...nor will there ever be anything like "Grey Gardens"; the hysterical, tragic, devastating, yet uplifting portrait of two extraordinary women who, despite great strength and character, are ultimately defined and paralyzed by their class. At times it plays like a East Hampton "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane"-- at others, it is as moving and tragic as anything that came out of the mind of O'Neill or Miller. To spend a few hours with the Beale women is to reflect on a lifetime of choices we make, choices that are made for us, and the difficulty inherent in coming to terms with both. From "Little" Edie's exposition on choosing her "costume of the day" to her unforgettable rendition of the BMI march song "Grey Gardens" is a film to be not only watched, but experienced. Whether you are entertained, saddened, or horrified, you will never forget "Big" Edith Bovier Beale, and her daughter,the late, great "Little" Edie.
on January 27, 2002
This stellar portrayal of two women, a mother and daughter, who spend their days in a run down house and are ironically aunt and cousin to Jackie O, displays documentary film-making at its very best. Although much has been said about the film, the focus always tends to emphasize the sordid living conditions that Edith Bovier Beale and her unmarried daughter, Little Edie inhabit, in an old estate in Easthampton, New York. Their house has been condemned by officials in Easthampton, and they live with cats and raccoons, but they don't give a damn about it. They are virtual recluses in their upscale community, "full of nasty Republicans." However, the film is not about the squalor that most of us would balk at in conventional situations. Their surroundings are only a backdrop and metaphor for the lost opportunities, and isolation that the women are subjected to as societal outcasts. Whether this is by choice, or due to their eccentricities is a mixed bag, but "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" are such magnetically charged women, it is fair to say that they are their own superstars within the world they have created.
Much of the film's pathos is magnified by the mother and daughter relationship. Little Edie, once a gorgeous, brilliant young woman feels she has been forced to sacrifice her life and a potential career as an entertainer, to look after her mother. Big Edie, once a veritable beauty in her day, was written out of her father's will for her aspirations to become a singer, and after her divorce retreated to her sea-side estate to spend the rest of her days. It is apparent that both women are extremely co-dependent, but in spite of their inherent needs to look after each other, Little Edie is full of resentment over the arrangement. She points this out again and again, letting us know that when she is with her mother, she doesn't feel like a woman, but rather a little girl. However, both have clearly been dominated by strict, critical male figures in their pasts, and they do enjoy a sense of freedom and independence in their solitude, even if it comes at the expense of their abilitiy to inhabit the outside world. Little Edie insists throughout the film, that she must get out and move to New York, "My days at Grey Gardens are limited" she tells the Maysles' camera crew, who record every nuance with objectivity, and a keen eye for descriptive detail of both women and their amazing story.
This is a complex narrative, and it unfolds with intelligent, and often hilarious dialogue from both Big and Little Edie. Little Edie's sense of fashion is truly "revolutionary" and has been copied and imitated by several designers. Big Edie is more staid, she has "had her cake, eaten it, chewed it, masticated it" while Little Edie emerges as a thwarted Goddess, who feels she never even got a bite of the cake, so to speak. She proclaims herself to be the "greatest dancer in the world" yet alone in the house with her mother, their is no other audience for her to creatively conquer. We watch her, and we are captivated by her, and we accept what she tells us, because she is so emotive and honest.
Fiction could never fully capture the beauty and the sadness that this film evokes. Although we love to laugh with it, it is also a poignant epic, magnifying moments in Big Edie and Little Edie's lives with uncanny depth and awareness of the subjects. It is simultaneoulsy lyrical, funny and sad. Those who view it and do not understand that this is a masterpiece, are missing the point of this work. And what is that point? I believe it circles around the choices that are made for us, the choices we do make, and the choices we don't make, and how our fates are are affected by these events.
I give "Grey Gardens" six stars, and I hope you enjoy it. It is a film that can be viewed several times, and there is always something new to discover every time it is screened.