HBO’s “Grey Gardens”


Dammit. Now I have to respect Drew Barrymore as an artist.

What a touching, realistic and thoroughly-researched performance! Wow. Awards showered upon her, please. While touches of that trademark Drew drawl slipped out every now and then (the sloppy S’s and the mumbled vowels), she WAS little Edie Beale. And Jessica Lange? Forget about it.

Using the Maysles brothers film as a through-line was a great concept. This is our primary experience with the Edies, and weaving the history behind the grainy camera shots gives us the context so sorely missing from the documentary (as well as the musical). It makes me want to go back to the documentary ASAP and watch with newfound appreciation.

From high society to squalor and tabloid fame is such a leap, and this film did a great job, in only two hours, tying it together. (I say “only two hours” as I really feel this could have been a miniseries.) Aside from the stunningly nuanced performances, I also deeply appreciated the the use of key elements to link the past and present together: Big Edie’s red, white and blue floppy sunhat, Little Edie’s fur coat, Big Edie’s portrait. I need to watch this again to pick up all that I’m sure I missed.

Some of the reviews I’ve read have remarked how this is an interesting analysis, nearly an exploitation, of mental illness. I don’t see them mentally ill at all. Eccentric, codependent, charming, smart, stubborn and passionate – yes. Their priorities were much different than what would be considered “normal”. So, technically, that makes them deviants. And that’s fine by me.

3 thoughts on “HBO’s “Grey Gardens”

  1. Glad you liked it! I will definitely catch up with the movie on dvd. But as far as the Edies go, guess I’ll have to be in the minority on this one. Granted, I’ve only seen the documentary and the musical, not this movie. But I just think the squalor in which they were living was more than simply a matter of having different priorities.

  2. I felt like I saw a lot of myself in Little Edie! I’m so sorry I missed Grey Gardens on Broadway. I had tickets but then it closed. I haven’t been able to give me recording of this my full attention yet, thanks to Max’s distracting me, but I soon will. Appreciate your thoughts.

  3. I don’t know about exploitation but this most definitely has to be a study in mental illness — if only for Little Edie’s rampant paranoia. To add to the list of links to the past: notice that one of Little Edie’s more prominent bandanas is actually dropped in the garden by Jackie O when she visits. Those little touches were just brilliant.

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