Grey Gardens (The Criterion Collection)
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Meet Big and Little Edie Beale-high society dropouts, mother and daughter, reclusive cousins of Jackie O.-thriving together amid the decay and disorder of their ramshackle East Hampton mansion. Five years after Gimme Shelter, the Maysles unveiled this impossibly intimate portrait of the unexpected, an eerie echo of the Kennedy Camelot, which has since become a cult classic and established Little Edie as fashion icon and philosopher queen.
Grey Gardens is the name of a neglected, sprawling estate gone to seed. The crumbling mansion was home to Edith Bouvier Beale, often referred to as "Big Edie," and her daughter, "Little Edie." The East Hampton, Long Island, home became the center of quite a scandal when it was revealed in 1973 that the reclusive aunt and cousin to Jackie O. were living in a state of poverty and filth. That's the background to this 1976 film portrait by cinéma vérité pioneers Albert and David Maysles, but it's only incidental to the fascinating story they discover inside the estate walls.
The two Edies have lived in almost complete seclusion since the mid-1950s, ever since Big Edie's husband abandoned her and Little Edie (then a young socialite on the verge of a dancing career, or so she claims) was called home to care for her depressed mother. Twenty years later they continue to live in their memories while camped out in a single bedroom of the 28-room mansion overrun with cats (who use the floor as their litter box). Rehashing mistakes and missed chances with an accusing banter that becomes more stinging and angry as the documentary progresses, they exist in a sad codependency brings new meaning to the term dysfunctional. Disturbing and discomforting, it comes off like a freak show at times, but for all their arguments and recriminations, the Maysles reveal two women abandoned by their families who are left to cling to each other, for better or worse. --Sean Axmaker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This was extremely well done, one thing I enjoyed were the scenes viewings of the home after the Bradley's had purchased and restored it. Hard to believe vines, trees and raccoons were once occupants with the Beales.
The Maysles captured an amazing story.
Beautiful young Edie, lost in her own world. Big Edie trying to maintain her dreams. Together what a study of mother/daughter devotion.
You must purchase the movie with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. These talented actresses portrayed these American high breds so perfectly through their rise and fall from debutante balls to pitiful social decay. Bravo
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The movie is a classic, the transfer is the best I've seen, the extra features and 2nd movie are great... It's the must own version of this groundbreaking documentary. Read morePublished on April 17 2014 by Cenobyte
This product arrived intact and was in working order. It was what I expected and I am happy. There are any negative things only positive.Published on March 11 2014 by Phil Taylor
this is a must see for all. Not only does it show their lives, but also how they think. Great film!Published on Aug. 26 2013 by snoopypuppy23 (Troy)
One of the most brilliant films ever made. you'll want to move in to Grey Gardens.Published on Nov. 4 2003 by frank vigliotti