Why I love Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens if you don’t know is a documentary filmed in 1972 which depicts the  isolated lives of the mother and daughter pair both named Edith Beale in a decrepit mansion in the Hamptons named Grey Gardens. .  They were relatives of Jackie O and were from a once wealthy prominent family. Attention was called to them when it was learned the county health department condemned their home and they were ordered to clean it up and get it up to code. It is a cult classic and was remade into a feature film by HBO.

Yes I am one of those people who is obsessed with this film.  I first saw Grey Gardens in the eighty’s. I have to say I enjoyed the film and often recalled scenes in my head thought of Edie when I donned a scarf and fastened it with a vintage brooch.  If I saw an article or book or review of the original or the play I read. I made a point to check out all fashions claiming little Edie as inspiration or looked greygardensesque. But that was it.

Then several years ago I heard HBO was planning to do a film based on the documentary starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.  I adore both Jessica and Drew in fact it’s a short list of actresses today I like as well. I just couldn’t picture them as the Edies.  I had more faith in Jessica than Drew.  She is just simply so LA,so 30ish, so today,  so $500 highlights, $200 jeans $100 t-shirt and flip-flops, mac makeup to run to the grocery. And the whole talking out of the right side of her mouth with a lisp thing. Don’t get me wrong its works for her and is endearing but it’s so not old school, privileged New York City.  Even so interest was peaked, I decided to rewatch the original.

That second of many viewings is when I fell in love with the  film, with little Edie.  Being a lover of all things old the house, the furniture, the flashback photos of the  women’s past were certainly appealing to me.  The house in its glory days is close to my dream home. There is no where I’d rather live than close to the beach and the Hamptons at that!  I was born in 1970 this film was shot in the 70’s so that was familiar to me.  What was also so familiar to me was the Beale’s accents and choice of words.I told you earlier i t’s a distinct privileged New York city of the time that’s sadly disappearing.  My grandmother and her siblings had it along with their spouses. Theirs wasn’t quite as upper crust but it’s similar and familiar and I adore it. Little Edie also had that  way of whispering less savory bits that is sadly not seen much any more either. And they both seemed to voice their thoughts the second upon thinking them, They both were so  completely themselves if you know what I mean. Completely uninhibited yet they did it graciously in my opinion.  How many of us are that free? How many of us say exactly what we’re thinking? How many of us belt out a song, or break into a dance even if we don’t have a particularly good voice or have much rhythm proudly just because you felt like it? Not many but I have wanted to.

Which is one of the many reasons this film is fascinating to watch.  You can see little  Edie never quite fit in(how many of us haven’t felt that way at one time or another) But she didn’t seem to want to try,  she was certainly comfortable in her own skin. They seem to have so little left yet they don’ t pity themselves , they still just enjoy life as they can.  Little Edie doesn’t buy the latest fashions, but she still manages to fashion her own style out of pieces left from better days.   Their relationship while complicated  is  based in a strong  love.  Big Edie seems to want nothing more than her daughter, her cats,her hot plate with some favorite foods, and her beloved grey garden home and that what she does. Watching the film you’ll wonder how they got there but the bigger question I ask myself is how far am I from getting there? I aspire to be as comfortable in my own skin as big and little Edie are. I don’t feel sorry for them.  I relate to them. About the only thing I cannot relate to is the filth. I can’t justify not cleaning up or getting a litter box.  I don’t know where that came from. Maybe if I watch it a few more times I ‘ll get it.

Or maybe the hbo film will give me some insight. I ordered the dvd should arrive any day.  I’ve heard I needn’t have worried about Drew,she gave the performance of a lifetime.   I can’t wait to see.

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

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