Saturday, April 02, 2005

Grey Gardens Part 2

So here’s the thing about this movie. There’s “big” Edie, the mother, and “little” Edie, her 54 year-old daughter. They’re cousins of Jackie O, and they live in three rooms of this totally decrepit mansion in the Hamptons, all but total recluses. The estate is wildly overgrown to the point where you can’t see out the windows. Little Edie wears elaborate turbans on her head made out of pretty much whatever, sweaters, scarves and towels, always with an ornate pin. She wears her skirts upside down. She says things like, “I think this is the best costume for the day.” Designers have been referencing her for thirty years, apparently. They had both once been incredibly beautiful, they are both immensely flamboyant and dramatic, they bicker constantly but also seem affectionate. Big Edie cooks all her meals on a hot plate next to her bed. Little Edie feeds the racoons in the attic who are also eating major portions of the wall, and she dreams of moving back to New York City. There’s obviously something quite wrong with both of them, and yet they are, at least in the barest way, functioning in the world. The whole movie is pretty much just them talking. It’s riveting. The next morning I couldn’t stop talking about it. Just when Ben thought I was done talking about it I’d have one more comment. I’d make promises that it was the last thing I was going to say about it that were promises I couldn’t keep. It’s just about so many things, I think. One of the things I took from it was just this extreme of what can happen if you have enough money to live in a mansion but seemingly have not enough ambition to even go out for dinner, like going too far from the house was just too complicated and hard. And yet, they both seem to have retained a certain spirit of life. They both sing, Little Edie performs these wild dances. I guess also for me it’s a really fascinating example of how people, in their infinite varieties, never cease to amaze. This is stuff I could never make up. Though I suppose I’ll keep trying. See it see it see it.


DAM said...

Grey Gardens, as it turns out, is a cult fave among those who like docs. I've seen it many times. No, I don't belong to a cult.

I think the film also speaks to mother-daughter relationships. The bickering and the love. The theme is dwarfed a bit by all that's so bizarre, but watch it a few times and it really emerges. Little Edie alternately hating and loving her mother. Wanting to leave her but never leaving because of how enmeshed they are.

I think it's equal parts happy and sad. I was really touched when the two got along. Their environment is almost a third "character" in the film and it's hard to forget it, even in the most touching moments.

It's a tall order to imagine people actually lived the way they did. No matter how much I'm willing to suspend disbelief, if the film were fiction I would have rejected it as a story.

I'm tempted to go and rent it, but I love when it pops up on IFC or Sundance. (Doesn't take much to make me happy, does it?)

Elizabeth Crane said...

Yes, I agree, equal parts happy and sad, which is basically concurrent with my worldview and probably why I found it so fascinating without even realizing it. We don't have cable but finally got Netflix - I'd been waiting to see this for years! And will for sure be renting it again. I kind of want to make my students see it even though it's a fiction class. It's just all-around inspiring.