Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens

4.0 19
Director: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer

Cast: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer

     
 

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Albert and David Maysles, pioneers in the cinéma vérité movement of documentary filmmaking, chose for their subjects of this film a mother and daughter with celebrity connections. Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie (or, as they are called by the brothers, Big Edie and Little Edie) are aunt and cousin to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In the early '70s,

Overview

Albert and David Maysles, pioneers in the cinéma vérité movement of documentary filmmaking, chose for their subjects of this film a mother and daughter with celebrity connections. Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie (or, as they are called by the brothers, Big Edie and Little Edie) are aunt and cousin to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In the early '70s, their 28-room mansion in Long Island's tony community of East Hampton was found to be a health hazard, and the two women, in their seventies and fifties, were threatened with eviction. Jacqueline Onassis paid for the house to be put in good order, and two years later, the Maysles paid the ladies a series of follow-up visits. This is not fly-on-the-wall filmmaking; the brother are sometimes shown on camera, and both women talk directly to them. Big Edie reminisces about her husband (from whom she has long been separated) and her youthful singing career, Little Edie ruminates over memories of her thwarted romances and confides that she has to get out of Grey Gardens (the name of their estate), although she has been living there since 1952, and the two women pick at each other for transgressions past and present. The women share their home with at least five cats and several raccoons, for whom Little Edie leaves out food in the attic. They are not recluses; they host a modest 79th birthday party for Big Edie, they employ a gardener, and they are often visited by Jerry, a young handyman/lost soul whom Little Edie calls "the Marble Faun," after the Nathaniel Hawthorne story. "It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present," Little Edie says near the beginning of the film, and it becomes clear that both women are much more comfortable reliving their respective youths (in some ways, Little Edie has never left hers), than facing their rather bleak old and middle age.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
Although Salesman (their breakthrough film) and Gimme Shelter (their most accessible film) are better known in the canon of Maysles brothers' movies, arguably their most moving film is this portrait of two aging women stuck in time and locked in a mother-daughter relationship for the ages. Edith Beale and Edie Beale are related to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which presumably brought them to the attention of the Maysles when the women were almost evicted from their rundown mansion on Long Island. But the Kennedy connection is really only incidental; this could be any mother and daughter whose past lives of wealth and privilege are all they have to go on in their respective old and middle age. The third character here is their house, slowly succumbing to age and neglect, but, especially for Big Edie, the supreme symbol of her once glorious past. The film is both heartbreaking and unexpectedly funny. Little Edie (as the filmmakers call her) loves confiding to the camera, and her sense of fashion (which runs to interesting head wraps and inverted skirts) and her way with words make her an endlessly entertaining subject, even as you sense the desperation beneath her dancing and singing routines and her whispered monologues. The film's most common image -- of Little Edie confiding to the Maysles that she has to get out of Grey Gardens while her mother calls her from another room to come and help her -- goes beyond even the specificity of wealth gone to ruin. What middle-aged offspring of an aging and needy parent hasn't experienced the same tug of emotions?

Product Details

Release Date:
12/10/2013
UPC:
0715515112215
Original Release:
1976
Rating:
PG
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:34:00
Sales rank:
10,655

Special Features

New 2K digital film restoration, approved by director Albert Maysles, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; Digital transfer of The Beales of Grey Gardens, approved by Maysles, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; Audio commentary for Grey Gardens, featuring Maysles, codirectors Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, and associate producer Susan Froemke; Introduction to The Beales of Grey Gardens by Maysles; Audio excerpts from a 1976 interview with Little Edie Beale; Interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the continuing influence of Grey Gardens; Behind-the-scenes photographs; Trailers; PLUS: an essay by critic Hilton Als

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Grey Gardens 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having heard about this "cult" documentary for several years, I really wasnt sure what to expect once I saw it. Its still rather shocking to see Jackie Kennedy's Aunt and cousin living in near squalor. These women seem rather oblivious to their fetid living conditions, concentrating on their petty day-to-day rivalries. Although they would be loathe to admit it, rarely have a mother & daughter seemed more symbiotic. Each entertained dreams of show buisness glory, but the times, and their vaunted stations in life conspired to keep them from achieving their goals. At the end of the film, my first reaction was one of sadness. Big Edie and Little Edie lived out their days in obscurity and squalor. But then I realized in the end, they did attain notoriety. Not only is the film a living hommage to their indominable spirits, but it has since been turned into a Tony award winning musical and will soon be a movie featuring Drew Barrymore. So in a way, they have achieved a sort of immortality
SS70 More than 1 year ago
Forget the HBO film. Here are the Beales, Big and Little Edie in all their decrepit glory. Even though this was filmed after Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill helped clean up the property to save it from condemnation, one can already see the signs of willful neglect and not-so-hidden madness creeping back in. Big and Little Edie shared a codependent relationship that, at times, seems to drive one or the other over some unseen edge. The famous "fight" scene is so emotionally honest and harrowing one might be tempted to skip ahead to another chapter on the DVD. To do this would be to do a disservice to the Beales, as one can tell that they really did love each other, through all the wear and tear on their lives and their house. The Maysles Brothers do another slam-bang job in creating a documentary that allows the subjects to present themselves, rather than focusing on one or two aspects of the Beales. I recommend this very highly, with this caveat: Be sure to watch this in its intended 1.33/1 aspect ratio. Stretching this out to fit a widescreen TV doesn't diminish the film's impact, but it doesn't do proper service to two filmmakers who worked hard to catch what they were able to. Afterwards, lift a flute of champagne to Big and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, fallen socialites and paragons of character.
clawman More than 1 year ago
THIS IS A WONDERFUL GLIMPSE INTO SO MANY DIFFERENT WORLDS. I HAVE BEEN TRULY TOUCHED BY THE FILM. WE watched in chronilogical order thru to the HBO movie. OUTSTANDING...it is so true as Little E said "things just seem to pile up after Labor Day......."
randy12 More than 1 year ago
Full of thought provocking information. Leaves you with a very strange feeling. Like you wish you could have done something, but couldn't to help someone.
Teri1960 More than 1 year ago
I loved this documentary. So very intriguing. You just don't want it to end. The tone and calmness in the voices. The simple, easy lifestyle of these woman. Everything is something. I just loved it. Living in squalor, they couldn't care less. They were living in another place and time in their minds and it was just so fun for me to watch. I guess the most interesting part is that they were related to Jackie Kennedy. That was really the draw for me, the relation to Jackie Kennedy.
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