Grey Gardens first came to my attention when HBO made a one off film about Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie, named Big Edie and Little Edie. Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore were the mother and daughter who haunted the East Hampton mansion, Grey Gardens. I started to watch part of the film but stopped as I wanted to see the original documentary that became a cult film and brought the world to the place where time stood still.
Edie and her mother Edith are the stars of the show and each unique in their own way. They go about their daily routine, their habits, their home while talking about the past, regrets and music and the many arguments as mothers and daughter do. They always reconcile and continue onwards.
The Maysles brothers capture every detail of the Bouvier Beales, who in turn don’t shy away from the camera. Their ease with their surroundings, a dilapidated house that should have been torn down, is a reflection of their spirit. They won’t give up on life and will live it on their terms.
For years they were living in poverty and squalor, with no running water even, until their house the media’s attention and their relative, Jackie O, came to the rescue and helped clear out the 1000 bags of rubbish and start the restoration, bring Grey Gardens back to the real world.
Little Edie is the driving force throughout the film. Long legged and prancing around the house and garden, her unique way of speaking and take on life is fascinating to watch. At age 56 during the time of the film, she looks fantastic. It’s such a shame that she spent most of her adult life cooped up with her mother missing many things. She talks about missing life in New York and many events in the past and her regret that she was there but underneath, she seems scared to leave. Always disappearing at the end of shots saying she has to check on her mother and the cats, Edie seems lost. She even says that when she sees herself she sees a little girl, Big Edie agreeing.
It’s not surprise that Edie became an unusual fashion icon after the release of the film. Having been a model when she was younger, she knows how to style herself. Calling her outfits her ‘costumes’ she carefully picks out each outfit to suit the day.
Throughout the film, although Big and Little Edie have a few laughs, singing songs, remembering the past, there is an obvious hint of sadness surrounding them. Almost reclusive, their barely interact with others. Brooke, their gardener and Jerry, their handyman are the few that saw them daily. Little Edie constantly says how she wants to leave but can’t. Her repetition saying that she doesn’t want to stay another Winter is almost heart breaking. She wants to leave but can’t.
It’s beautifully filmed and encapsulates a relationship between a mother and a daughter as well as the strange and wonderful world of Grey Gardens, a documentary like no other I’ve seen.
To see where it all started and for an excellent insight to film, have a look at The Matinee HERE - Blind Spot posts go up every month.