A Decadent Smash
When I first heard that a new version of “Grey Gardens” was being prepared I was a bit apprehensive. I just could not imagine a remake of the documentary as a drama but this is a wonderful film. The screenplay is brilliant and Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore are so good in their roles that you feel that they really are the characters that they inhabit. They are their characters.
For those of you who do not know “Grey Gardens” is a non-fictional account of a most dysfunctional family and the Beales, mother and daughter live lives filled with parental control, character disorders, victimization and the realization of unfulfilled dreams. The relationship of the two women is bizarre and the two are pathologically complimentary.
The film is based on the life stories of the eccentric aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and they both share the same name, Edith Bouvier Beale (hence “Big Edie” and “Little Edie”). They were both raised as Park Avenue debutantes but they withdrew from New York society to live in their summer home, Grey Gardens on Long Island. They began to lose their grasp on reality as their wealth and contact with the outside world eroded. We heard about them when international tabloid papers reported on a raid on their home by the health department and Jackie O came to their aid. When the Maysles brothers were investigating the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s sister, Lee Radziwill, they came upon the Beales and they made the original documentary and both the film and the women became legendary. HBO gives us its look at the women by bringing us the amazing Jessica Lange as Big Edie and Drew Barrymore as Little Edie and the rest, as they say, is history.
The HBO film is near perfect—it is brilliantly cast, crafted by experts and acted beautifully by all who take part. It does not come across as a made for TV film and the film is so good that had it been made for the large screen there would be no guessing at Oscar time. The film is a tribute to two women whose lives might otherwise have been forgotten. Director Michael Sucsy gives us a film that brings out many feelings and emotions and that is both sensitive and tender. It is almost impossible not to be moved by “Grey Gardens”. The film also reminds us that wealth can come to us in different ways but real and true wealth is the loyalty that we have for each other.