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Grey Gardens - Criterion Collection
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Product Description

Studio: Image Entertainment Release Date: 08/14/2001 Run time: 94 minutes

Grey Gardens is the name of a neglected, sprawling estate gone to seed. The crumbling mansion was home to Edith Bouvier Beale, often referred to as "Big Edie," and her daughter, "Little Edie." The East Hampton, Long Island, home became the center of quite a scandal when it was revealed in 1973 that the reclusive aunt and cousin to Jackie O. were living in a state of poverty and filth. That's the background to this 1976 film portrait by cin¨¦ma v¨¦rit¨¦ pioneers Albert and David Maysles, but it's only incidental to the fascinating story they discover inside the estate walls.

The two Edies have lived in almost complete seclusion since the mid-1950s, ever since Big Edie's husband abandoned her and Little Edie (then a young socialite on the verge of a dancing career, or so she claims) was called home to care for her depressed mother. Twenty years later they continue to live in their memories while camped out in a single bedroom of the 28-room mansion overrun with cats (who use the floor as their litter box). Rehashing mistakes and missed chances with an accusing banter that becomes more stinging and angry as the documentary progresses, they exist in a sad codependency brings new meaning to the term dysfunctional. Disturbing and discomforting, it comes off like a freak show at times, but for all their arguments and recriminations, the Maysles reveal two women abandoned by their families who are left to cling to each other, for better or worse. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews:

  • The PURRRRFECT costume for the day.......
    I had read about Grey Gardens in New York magazine and was intrigued enough to find this DVD. I am so glad I did. I can see why this has become a huge indie/doc legend. Steven Spielberg could not have created these characters! I don't believe in being a plot spoiler or giving away content in reviews but if you are interested in high society of the 40s and 50's or are an Jackie O or culture junkie, this DVD is a must watch.

    The fact that it has become a broadway legend already should say it all. Make sure to watch all of the extras as they really are worth the time. You will understand the title of this review as it is revealed in the first few frames of the movie....ENJOY!...more info
  • Grey Gardens
    Brilliant character study...a film that I will watch many is a wonderfully done documentary...The Grey Gardens is a must see film!
    ...more info
  • Grey Gardens - Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale - Documentary
    This is a remarkable documentary. Every scene draws one deeper into the fascinating world of these two interesting and unusual women, their way of life and their relationship with one another. ...more info
  • Little Edie Beale: A Fascinating Female Residing in Grey Gardens
    The original filming of the documentary followed the lives of Big & Little Edie Beale in the early-mid 70s, well before reality tv & paparrazi began barraging us with images of celebrities alongside average Americans. Watching the film gives a feeling of watching something you shouldn't be seeing, knowing the Kennedy & Bouvier clans probably shuddered in their shoes when they heard about it being released. (The Beales are close relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.) Edie's change of outfits, singing, & endless philosophizing are fascinating to watch, yet at the same time you feel a bit melancholic for her. The new bonus disc is quite a treat with footage never before available from the hours of filming done by the Maysles' brothers. Buy it for your collection & you will always have something interesting to watch & discuss when you have a dinner party. A unique gem!...more info
  • captivating from the start--with a train wreck never fully crashes
    Grey Gardens is a magnificent, fascinating documentary of "Big Edie" and her daughter "Little Edie" who live in the rapidly decaying estate called Grey Gardens in East Hampton on Long Island's fashionable east end. The Maysles brothers (Albert and David) "discovered" this mother-daughter duo when they were planning to do a film on the childhood of Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Onassis. They met Big Edie (Edith Bouvier Beale) and Little Edie (Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale) and about a year later begin filming them just as they actually lived in Grey Gardens.

    We find out quickly how devastated both mother and daughter were when East Hampton officials "raided" their home in the early 1970s because there was no running water and the place was practically inhabitable. Although Little Edie claims all the taxes were paid up one wonders why they didn't spend some money to fix their home themselves. I believe they didn't have the money. When it was discovered that these Big Edie and Little Edie were related to Jacqueline Onassis; "Jackie O" donated $25,000 so they could fix the place up somewhat and be allowed to stay there.

    The Maysles brothers were all the more intrigued to meet these two women and they subsequently produced this fine film. It is a brilliant character study but at times it can be sad and disturbing. The mother and daughter have both been abandoned by their families and they exist in a strong bond of dysfunctional codependency. Little Edie confides to the cameramen several times during the film that she would like to leave Grey Gardens and take another shot at living in reality but she admits in an "extra feature" interview that she would be worried that her mother would die without her.

    As the film progresses we see mother and daughter truly living in the past. Big Edie constantly badgers her daughter as to why she never married one of her very wealthy suitors, including Paul Getty. (If Little Edie actually did get a marriage proposal from him is never determined.) At the same time, Little Edie laments losing out on being a great dancer and when she dances for the camera you can tell she wouldn't have gone too far as a dancer. Sadly, both mother and daughter clearly have serious emotional problems.

    In addition, we see the women totally unconcerned as raccoons invade their attic. In fact, Little Edie goes up to the attic regularly to put food down for the raccoons and other animals! They have quite a few cats that eat cat food and various scraps of food as mother and daughter eat themselves.

    We also see Jerry, a young handyman who paints a few rooms for them. He is remarkably respectful and kind toward the two women and he says little in front of the camera to keep the focus on mother and daughter.

    The DVD comes with a fairly lengthy (about 30 minutes) audio interview with Little Edie recorded in April of 1976; and we get many snapshots in a "scrapbook" photo gallery that is easy to navigate. The extras include a director's commentary as well.

    Grey Gardens will appeal to people who enjoy real life character studies and documentaries about the human experience. If you find people interesting then this film will be good for you to watch. On the other hand, if you think this might be too gloomy for you I would then suggest you avoid this movie. Grey Gardens doesn't fool around when it comes to portraying the lives of these two women very accurately; and I personally give it ten thumbs up!
    ...more info
  • So Sad Yet So True
    They used to be part of the rich crowd, now they live in a dilapidated mansion that's literally falling apart. I mean racoons are jumping through the open walls, eating off their floors, & chumping on the dry cat food littered there. Cats are everywhere too and they poop and pee anywhere they want, on the mother's bed, behind the paintings, etc.

    How did these two people end up with a life like this? This movie tells... ...more info
  • personality disorders, mental illness and possible alcoholism
    What a sad story . . . I am surprised to hear so little in other reviews about the mental health issues in this family (those things mentioned above) plus the emotional abuse big edie spewed upon little edie non-stop. She would not let her amount to anything, and used her to satisfy her needs. I noticed time and time again the double-messages she gave little edie: "you are a great singer-- don't sing!" "you need to loose that weight -- do you want some ice cream?" "you never got a husband or babies -- your boyfriend was horrendous!" "you are a great poetess -- stop reciting that poem!" Enough to make anyone insane. And their inability to function, magical thinking, and emphasis on images (the mirror, the pictures) instead of reality: all very sad to watch.
    ...more info
  • Great Purchase
    After watching the HBO film, I wanted more insight and the documentary was great, really answered a lot of questions. I was very happy I made the purchase. I have watched the HBO program and then this DVD, the performances were amazing!!!...more info
  • Hard to watch, hard not to watch ...
    Grey Gardens was initialy intended to be a documentary film on the Bouvier family, the ancestors of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill. However, after being introduced to Edith Bouvier Beale (Jackie's father "Black Jack's" sister) and her daughter (Jackie's first cousin), the focus changed ... to a story that would have been all-but-impossible for a documentary filmmaker to walk away from, even over the protests of family members.

    The Beales, mother and daughter (Edie and "Little" Edie), were at one time beautiful, no doubt fashionable, wealthy, prominent members of high society, with a large mansion, "Grey Gardens," full of appropriate possessions to match. Unfortunately, Mr. Beale's death (I didn't catch when but it had to have been many years earlier) led them into a year-by-year, seemingly never-ending spiral of increasing pathetic physical ruin and personal dispair.

    By the time of the documentary, they have long-since lost the ability to care for the mansion, it's possessions, themselves or their health. They have effectively been removed from current reality and exist almost entirely amid memories, many very clear to both, some with recriminations and lots with "if only's." They have seemingly lost all but perfunctory contact with their family (a brother of Edith's is said to pay the taxes) and have no visible source of income. And, seemingly as a result of the situation, have descended into a completely self-absorbed, mutually accusatory / codependent relationship, possibly diagnosable as some form of mental illness for one or both.

    A really difficult, truly sad but sometimes very funny situation, made poignant by their memories of what was and by implication what could have been. In some ways they may be seen as heroic, still able to laugh under the appalling circumstances. Undoubtedly many controversial questions could be asked of the Beale's, the family, the filmmakers, the government, and society. Worth watching and thinking about from lots of viewpoints ... well done. ...more info
  • Reality Television
    If the 70s had these "real life TV" programs like we have of this decade!! all I can say is WOW, I have watched the films over and over... I am a vintage fashion addict & own a clothing boutique and this is a MUST have!! Cuz Little Edie has given me MORE inspiration & a big FIX for my addiction... Staff at the boutique can here me holler oh EDIE (screech) EEDIEE, its fantastic and I like one reviewers idea of a Grey Gardens Party I'm stealin it! Im having one too this Halloween!...more info
  • Faded Grandeur
    "Grey Gardens" is a fascinating,disturbing look into the daily life of Jackie O's aunt and cousin--Edith Bouvier Beale and Little Edie. While people associate the Hamptons with luxury, the pair live in a dilapidated mansion in East Hampton, in squalor and poverty. It was a scandal in 1973 when the Beales' life was revealed. Not long after that, the Maysles brothers decided to chronicle their lives.

    "Grey Gardens" is an almost reality TV-like journey into a dysfunctional,codependent mother/daughter relationship. Edith was once a famous,beautiful socialite. Edie planned on having a dancing career on Broadway; millionaire Paul Getty once proposed to her. Now, they live squabbling, reminiscing, in an alternate reality of their own. Their glory days long behind them, they are stuck in nostalgia.

    "Grey Gardens" is heartbreaking, poignant, and riveting. It's a true classic....more info
  • "It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. You know what I mean? It's awfully difficult"
    This has become much more than a documentary. The cult of GREY GARDENS has now well and truly become a way of life for many people--but more about that later.

    The Maysles brothers spent several months documenting and filming "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale and her reclusive mother "Big Edie" for their landmark fly-on-the-wall documentary feature GREY GARDENS. The story is well-known by now, but here's a brief synopsis: Edith "Big Edie" Bouvier Beale lives in her run-down East Hampton estate Grey Gardens with middle-aged daughter "Little" Edie; they are relations of Jackie Kennedy. Constantly being threatened with closures by the board of health, the Grey Gardens mansion plays host to a menagerie of stray cats, raccoons and opossums. It would be almost comical if it wasn't real. The women live in isolation from the rest of the world, an isolation occasionally broken by young handyman Jerry, whom "Little" Edie refers to as the "marble faun".

    The story of the two Edie's is one of the most fascinating and, in it's own funny way, gripping, that has ever been committed to film.

    The documentary preserves their special, almost-pathelogically co-dependent relationship. "Little" Edie is one of those characters that laughs in the face of conformity. The movie is a sheer valentine to her witticisms ("My God, my muscles, I can't do it, I'm tellin' you! What am I going to do! They're gone, with this soft life!"). This movie preserves her in all her abstract glory, "revolutionary costumes" included.

    To say that GREY GARDENS has become a way of life for many people would be an understatement. More recently there has been a fabulous musical version of the story that is preserved on a best-selling cast album (Grey Gardens - A New Musical Based On The Film "Grey Gardens"), and a new movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange is currently in production.

    While I don't walk around the house with scarves clipped around my head, my trips to GREY GARDENS are quite regular--the DVD gets a spin at least once or twice a month. The DVD also has a mini-feature from a genuine hardcore fan, entitled "Ghosts of Grey Gardens", in which we get to see the fully-restored Grey Gardens estate, and learn more about the fate of "Little" Edie after she moved on from the house.

    A genuine classic. This should definitely be compulsory viewing....more info
  • Life in the Hamptons

    Cult Films

    Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride

    The Criterion Collection has released a double DVD set of "Grey Gardens" and "The Beales of Grey Gardens" and what is interesting about these two films is that they have achieved cult status among gay men, much like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Sordid Lives".
    But that is where any comparison ends.
    Both of these movies are documentaries and are about the lives of Big and Little Edie Beale, cousins of Jackie O., who chose to live reclusive lives. Their mansion in the Hamptons is a mess--replete with disarray and disorder. But what endears this movie is that it is a throwback, albeit a shabby throwback to the myth of Kennedy's "Camelot". The movie established Little Edie as a queen of philosophy and a fashion icon. She is an independent woman whose every doing were influenced by and infused with the presence of her mother, Big Edie Beale. They spent their lives together until the death of Big Edie. They were aristocrats by name, poor by lack of money and it is the dichotomy that makes "Grey Gardens" so fascinating.
    I must say that "Grey Gardens" is, for lack of a better word, fabulous. The real life characters have lives that exceed any imaginings one may have. The beauty of the film is that it is the characters that shape the film and they carry the theme that "truth is best presented through metaphor". The Beales were born into the upper class at the time when there was an American aristocracy but aside from their birthrights they have created their own personas. There is a singer and there is a dancer and hard times could not break their spirit. We see their real life, the shambles of a mansion in which they live is the epitome of their station in life. But that is superficial, the real story of the Beales is their attitude toward life, their memories of the past--their beaus, their lost money, their regrets, their sense of family. The passing of time has not been kind to the Beales but they have overcome it with self-expression. The two are extraordinary women and the Maysles brothers who edited the film and partially directed it have dome a brilliant job.
    The Maysles brothers simply recorded their several visits to the Beales when Edith Bouvier was nearly eighty and film the reclusive twosome. Little Edie, once married but now separated from her husband had been singer and a member of high society. She had returned to the Hamptons twenty-four years earlier to be cared for by her mother. The women speak directly to the camera, at times talking above each other, going from the present to the past and back and forth.
    The best word I can use to describe this film is "surreal". The woman passed eccentricity and appear to be on the verge of completely losing "it". They reveal their humanity in the strangest of ways and the film is on the edge of exploitation as it looks at the Beale women. Under the tables of the mansion are empty gin bottles, cats having the run of the house, raccoons live in the walls. Edie and Edith are haunting figures. Their lives seemed to be lived in one room only of their large home. The scene of the cat relieving itself on the bed and being dismissed by Edith with "I thrive on it (the smell" was heartbreaking. There is a lot going on the film and all of it is fascinating. The co-dependent women maintain a passive-aggressive arrangement for living.
    Edie never leaves the home and rarely sees anyone. She was once beautiful and classic, a debutante who, for no reason, still watches her weight. She still has her beauty and her mannerisms are of a young society belle. The peek into the world of these two women is wonderful and compelling, sad and fabulous.
    The aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis really do not have a life but a circus. When you view the portraits of them as young women which hang on the walls of their dilapidated home you see the splendor that once was. They dress outlandishly and are still beautiful women. They way they eat is strange--on fine china with plastic utensils. To them, time has no meanings, they have no clocks and their relationships with men are extremely strange. When Edie declares that "the hallmark of aristocracy is responsibility" you wonder if she is sane since neither woman has taken any responsibility for anything. As witty as this film is, it is also strange, bordering upon bizarre.
    "The Beales of Grey Gardens" was made in 2006, some 30 years after the original film was shot. It is an entirely new film which was assembled from unused footage from the first movie. An interesting note about the second film is that there is mention of Jackie O. asking Onassis to help the Beales in renovation "Grey Gardens" mansion. The first film deals more with the pride of the women while the second movie seems to concentrate on the desolation of the women. Both films are important as they show how to promote understanding of people and how to find deterrents to both anger and hate, With both films the Beales' secrets are out to the world and what could have been very glum, grim and depressing is instead a celebration of life.
    A new Broadway musical based on the film is presently "packing them in" and elevating the cult status of the Beale "girls" so it looks like the legends of Grey Gardens are around to stay for a while,.

    ...more info
  • Incredibly haunting
    After first being introduced to the Beales from the off-Broadway cast recording of Grey Gardens, I decided to purchase the original documentary. After countless viewings and trips to the theatre to see the Broadway production, I wanted to learn more about these fascinating woman and their stories. The Beales of Grey Gardens made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Showing more intimate and taboo facets of their lives, the second documentary gives us even more insight to the sadness and pride. I can't get enough of these woman. Oh to be a fly on the wall of Grey gardens. Though I think the smell might get to me after a while....more info
  • Like watching a car crash
    Grey Gardens is so twisted and disturbing, you cannot really stop watching it. At times it comes across as so amazingly depressing and at others utterly hilarious but in a melodramatic, tragic way. Part Sunset Bouleveard, part Baby Jane - but real life. Ultimately very sad - but utterly hypnotic....more info
  • Dealing with a super honest seller.
    After receiving my dvd i was so disappointed. I didn't work. I contacted the seller and i was very impressed by him. Without questioning me or giving me a hard time, he purchased a NEW dvd and sent it right out to me. This one works and I could not be more pleased. Today it seems honest people are sometimes hard to come by. I'm happy I was dealing with one of the best. I'm very, very happy with my experience with this seller. I would buy from him 1st if I wanted to purchase another dvd....more info
  • Mesmerizing
    Get ready to watch Edith and Edie Beale over and over again. Seeing pictures from their luxurious past contrasted with how they were living in the documentary will leave you scratching your head. Although this Mother-Daughter duo are sorely peculiar, you will appreciate Edith's ability to recognize profound truths as she attempts to counsel her out of touch with reality daughter. I'm still wondering why their Bouvier relatives let them live in such disorder. ...more info
  • facinating
    You can watch these over and over... I had them from netflix for 2 months and before I could send them back I ordered my own!!! Now we are planning a Grey Gardens party!! You NEED to watch these... then I bought the book 13 Months at Grey Gardens and the CD of the musical Grey Gardens!!! My husband thinks I'm nuts :) Everybody that watches, reads, or listensto my collection loves them....more info
  • Colorful Grey Gardens
    So, I've heard of this documentary and been admonished for not yet seeing this film as its such a camp. I understand that such fashionistas as Isaac Mizrahi and Todd Oldham have been influenced by Little Edie's outlandish sense of fashion. Most of the reviews also touched on the acerbic relationship between the elder and the younger Beale, one review comparing their relationship to that in "Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolfe?".
    Those people don't get it.
    What I saw was ultimately a poignant view of how relationships evolve over time, whether it is a relationship forged by choice or by blood, or both. Big Edie has been blamed for ruining Little Edie's chances of marriage and an independent life. It seemed to me that she had a mother's intuition that perhaps her daughter wasn't quite cut out to brave the world on her own. Little Edie's descriptions of life in New York sound like those of someone who, at the time at least, had a tenuous hold on reality.
    Little Edie's fashion sense is in fact out-there, but not as outlandish or garish as I've frequently read. If her look was an inspiration for anyone, it was because she had a flair for color and pattern, not just that she was outrageous. I was mesmerized by her many costumes. The lines of her sarong-like coverings were not too far from the Wrap-Skirt so ubiquitous during the 70's. Little Edie also seemed to have little self-consciousness about her body, which I saw as quite fit for a lady of her age. She was basically dressing to look like Ann Miller from some Technicolor Dance Extravaganza from the 40's, strong gams emphasized by fishnets and low pumps.
    Also refreshing was her uninhibited tendency to break out in a song and dance (looked like Runway Dancing or Vogueing from a Harlem House Ball to me) whenever the mood took hold.
    The "Beales of Grey Gardens" truly enhances the appreciation of "Grey Gardens" itself. Two moments I found touching: Little Edie ruminates on her Catholic faith. You sense her sorrow that she stopped going to Mass after the raid on their home because of the disdain of her fellow citizens, even in Church. She decides, I think from her renewed self-confidence after being filmed by the Maysles, to defy the town and take her faith back. She goes to Mass. The second moment happens when Big Edie is demanding that Little Edie change into a particular piece she got at Pearl River. Little Edie resists until she comes up with what she feels is an appropriate ensemble to pair the piece with. When she goes to change, Big Edie is asked how many costumes a day satisfy her, and she says "Oh, about 10." She is obviously enchanted and delighted by her daughter's flair and passion for dressing up, something I suspect few others around them appreciated. She looked proud of her daughter.
    Be prepared, not for the grotesque as I sense many see in this relationship, but for a complex and ultimately satisfying relationship. Living in squalor is nothing to emulate, but it is no less creepy to me than the notion of living in the blank anteseptic homes usually put out in cinema as normal.
    Let's ace it: most familial relationships are messy and strange, but ultimately satisfying....more info
  • The best costume for the day!
    Buy this film. Don't think twice, just buy it! It is a hysterically funny and yet heartbreaking exploration of two outrageous and maverick women. Every artist- whether your medium is painting, acting, design, writing, or whatever else- will be amazed and inspired by "Little Edie". This story will prove that what matters most in life is to be YOU. ...more info
  • Better than watching a car crash!
    You seriously cannot script this stuff.

    I like weird s**t! What can I say?! Thanks to parents with a dry sense of humor I grew up loving all things 'odd'.

    When my boyfriend brought this home and said: "You need to watch's right up your alley!" I was like: eh! ( I don't like it when people recommend things to me - don't ask me why, it's just a weird thing i have!)

    Anyway, I read the back of the cover and was a little intrigued...I'm not going to lie. So we put it on and OMFG! These woman are f#$%ing amazing! They are cookoo and eccentric and all those things I love immensely!

    I didn't want it to end. And i couldn't believe I had not come accross it early. I feel like 27 yrs of my life have just passed me by with no real meaning.

    I have never said the words: Seriously?! Is she f#$%ing for real...I LOVE HER!

    Edie is amazing. I am in awe of these women.

    This is now my all-time favourite documentary.

    Now i don't say this very often, but : YOU MUST WATCH THIS IF IT IS THE LAST THING YOU DO!

    You cannot go through life without having seen these women in action..

    Go and buy it right now...RIGHT NOW! I'm watching you...more info
  • Grey Gardens/The Beales of Grey Gardens


    ...more info
  • Wonderful DVD.
    I use to work in the late 70' and early 80' in a very famous Spa in Montauk. I had a sexy Italien friend that use to work with me there, and took me for a rides to East Hampton beaches all the time. Many times we use to watch Little Edie swimm in Atlantic ocean, and talk to her there on a quiet beach. Later we use to give her food for cats, because some of her cats were skinny to the bone, and we feld sorry for them. Few times we set with her on her porch, and talk about life, Kennedy's and mainly Jackie O. She always made fun of her, but she should stop running her mouth about Jackie O., because Jackie O. pay them monthly bills for heat and electricity, and send them close and blankets for the winter. We did not like to go inside her house. Her mother kept screaming for her all the time and yell at her every few minutes. One day I did go in, and say Hello to her mother, and was flee bitten on my legs. Flee bites hurt me for days. Never again after that I did enter that place. But we talk to Little Eddie till she sold her dirty old house and left. My sexy Italien friend died in a car crash in 1986. I cry for day's when he died. He use to look so good in Cowboy Boots. Nobody wear Boots today the way he did. Nobody!!! I met mamy many many many famous people at the Spa. Including Warholl, Cavett, Jackie O, John Kennedy Jr., Minneli, Capote,Willage People, Laura Branigan, Elton John, Billy Joel, Peter Allen,Grace Jones, and many many many others, that are gone form these trouble world... When I left Montauk I start working for Mrs. Leona Helmsley in NYC. O Lord, I work for her almost 11 years, and she was wonderful to me. I feel sorry for all that troubles people got her into in that lousy and gossip oriented NYC. People in NYC always hade and have snake thongs. Well-anyway-I love both DVD's about Little and Big Edie. They were done very like Cinema Verite, and they bring to us the time, when many people lived like that, when they didn't have much money, not only Beales lived like that. Today everybody wanne live like Dukes and Ducheses. Remember!!!---->> Sometimes less is more, and with Grey Gardens DVD one can see, that these two lonely women hade less, but were more happy that those that have more. And they had there Christian Faith that made them,and kept them strong. I will never forget the way that house use to look, and the way Little Edie use to sing, even when it was cold outsite. I come from family that lost everything like Edie, but they were more happy in spirit and soul. I hope you all know what I mean by that. If not, than way up, and smell some strong java in the morning, and look more around you for the beauty in nature, love cats and dogs, music, movies and good reading, than you will discover true meening of a good life. I miss those long summer nights in Montauk and Hampton's. ...more info
  • Grey Gardens/ The Beales of Grey Gardens
    The 2 set Grey Garden DVD set captures the spirit of the complex relationship between a mother and daughter. The lives of the relatives of Jackie Kennedy still interest us today. Both are well done even though they were edited years apart. I wish I had viewed the DVD's before seeing the Broadway play....more info
  • Addictive!
    Since I first saw this documentary some months ago, I have been trying to analyze why I find it so compelling, so unforgettable. I just acquired the new 2-DVD release that includes The Beales of Grey Gardens and I found my thoughts once again taken up with this mother and daughter. Mostly, I am intrigued by Little Edie and her sweetness and self-mocking smiles, her truly good nature. The people who think mother and daughter suffered from some sort of mental impairment miss the point entirely. Grey Gardens is about these women's survival, about making the best of a bad situation with music and playing dress-up in quite wonderful ways; it's about eating a lot of ice cream and holding conversations about everything under the sun without ever trying to murder each other or become seriously abusive. The Beales DVD highlights these two features in a way that Grey Gardens does not, given over as the original is to establishing the chronology of the women's lives. This 2nd DVD shows the great supportiveness that lay beneath the sometime contentiousness that can live below the surface in any relationship--but particularly below those where people are together twenty-four/seven. While Big Edie's interesting, Little Edie is, for me, absolutely fascinating. There is something so utterly lovable about her lack of self-consciousness, about the headgear she concocted to conceal what appears to be a loss of hair and eyebrows due to alopecia; her daily costuming is a form of entertainment both for her and for her mother who, it is revealed, enjoyed Edie's changes of outfit as much as Edie herself. And, certainly, as much as I did. Neither women ever loses her dignity; the filmmakers never take advantage of the situation and are always entirely respectful. The Maysles Brothers found pure gold in the ramshackle mansion, and it's just rivetting to visit this mother and daughter from time to time and marvel at their opinions, their thoughts about music, about family, about war (Edie had some great ideas on the subject), about everything from Miss Porter's School to the dreadful-sounding Mr. Beale. This is one of the all-time great documentaries, done from the heart, and not to be missed. It ranks as one of my favorite films ever! I just wish there were several more DVDs' worth of material ... sigh....more info
    I was trained in documentary film a few years before this movie opened in "art houses." The Maysles scored a powerful hit with SALESMAN, and with two realistic masterpieces during the 1960's. So, I was surprised this film surpassed all that had come before from this team.

    I have read other reviews (on this site) that referred to the work as a "freak show," and I must differ sharply. There is no way any decent audience can view this movie without entering the world of the two Edies. Without accepting their very frightened perspective of the "outside world" there is no way to underatand this film at all.

    This movie attacks the immense disparity between rich and poor by portraying an heiress in a rotting bedroom snacking on Hershey's sherbet
    in a timeworn bedroom with fruitflies and more than one emaciated cat.

    This movie speaks to the devastating effect of mental illness on otherwise gifted people. "Little Edie" is portrayed as an exquisite young woman in so many stills here, one wonders what could have possibly gone wrong in her life.

    She wraps her head each day, not because of the sun in Easthampton, not because of hair-pulling not because of modesty or cancer, but something unspoken. And despite all of it, she is outspoken about so much. Despite her modesty, she is so immodest. The sequences in which she reveals her dancing skills will take your breath away. You will laught, and you may weep.

    Illness aside, this film addresses our universal disease -- that of living in the past, especially if the present looks grim. Amazingly, these two women inhabit the present for perhaps five or ten minutes of this 92- minute unsentimental masterpiece.

    There are some who will compare the Maysles' perspectives to Diane Arbus, but I think Al and crew had simple, unabashed respect for these two troubled survivors of a better time, and also of one much worse.

    Criterion has done a typically superb job of remastering. While the picture is restored, so is the sound, and that is amazing for this work. There are many worthy extras, and a second disk which revisits these characters though newly discovered archives almost two decades after the initial production.

    This is not a freak show. This is filmmaking that helped set a standard for today's best documentaries. And it is so compassionate, it practicaly cries for mercy. The filmmakers avoid sensationalism, and take the camera to the edge of revusion but never beyond it because it wouldn't serve any pointpurpose.

    A marvelous film with worthy extras for those who view cinema and DVDs as a real gift. I just loved it. And the 2-disk set is a steal....more info
  • Classic
    I rented this once, and had to have it for myself. Creepy and funny as hell....more info
  • Reality, checked.
    So many of Shakespeare's greatest plays invite us to examine the richly fascinating lives of the mentally ill, that we can hardly call the Maysles exploitative or the many admirers of this work voyeurs. I think that lets a lot of us who love this film off the hook all the way around. However, no one who knows anything about schizophrenia can fail to see that Little Edie is obviously schizophrenic. At one point she actually says that she was diagnosed "schizoFREEEnic" by somebody "in the Village" but denies that this could possibly be true, and that her "dual nature" is in fact due to her zodiac sign.

    Her rolling gait, the garrulous, often self-aggrandizing speech, the whispered conspiracy theories, the exaggerated facial expressions, the sudden outbursts of temper -- and so many more symptoms which are so painfully obvious to those who have lived or work closely with schizophrenic individuals, clue us in to the true nature of her relationship with her mother which goes way beyond things hinted at or openly stated in the dialogue. It becomes increasingly clear to the viewer, especially after watching The Beales of Grey Gardens, which is included in this two DVD set, that apparently Little Edie was not managing well living on her own in the city in 1952, so her mother had her return to Long Island ostensibly to care for her. Big Edie's devotion was such that I believe she was willing to appear less than capable of taking care of herself to protect Little Edie's dignity as much as she could. Neither woman was physically able or accustomed to taking care of the huge house, and as their fortune disappeared, the mansion sank into a state of appalling disrepair. The bare mattresses they sleep on are unspeakably filthy, yet Little Edie's brother continues to pay the taxes on the place without ever coming to see them. Only the most minimal provision is made for their needs, keeping them essentially in a holding pattern in the house. They can't afford to move somewhere else, and they can't afford to maintain the place. The reasons for this are only hinted at in the film by Little Edie rolling her eyes.

    As is so often the case among victims of schizophrenia, LE's wit and intelligence are undiminished by her illness and only make her circumstances seem sadder still. Her outlandish get-ups -- often featuring tablecloths and towels -- fashion forward as they may have been, clearly arise from her lack of wearable clothing. Big Edie, who can barely walk and has a terrible cough, is often seen sitting around barely covered with a blanket, with apparently little or nothing on underneath, yet sitting thus, she sings in a full-throated soprano, still, with near-total recall of lyrics and snatches of poetry. The astonishing flair with which Little Edie assembles her jaunty ensembles says a great deal about the resiliency of the human spirit. Perhaps only in Shakespeare do we find a study of two utterly tragic characters as compelling as what the Maysles captured on film that year.

    Because this film is such a powerful work of art, the truths which are at the core of the Beales' situation are both complex and universal. The photographs of each of the women in their youths reveal that they were both stunning beauties who had every advantage of birth, education and wealth. Big Edie was the sister of "Black Jack" Bouvier, Jacqueline Kennedy's own father, so Jackie and Little Edie were first cousins. That Jackie and Lee could have done a great deal more for them than see to it that Grey Gardens got a new roof and some other basic structural repairs (after the highly publicized "raid" by local officials) is an uncomfortable indictment of women who are considered America's royalty. Indeed, at the height of the Bouvier sisters' international jet-setting phase, their aunt and cousin were both ill, underfed, underclothed and underhoused, sleeping on filthy mattresses with no sheets. This is where the notion that this film depicts two quarrelsome free spirits living exactly as they liked and thumbing their noses to their high-society rellies breaks down. Even free spirits like clean sheets and a shower once in awhile. To be fair, I have read that Lee Radziwill did help out with the grocery bill from time to time, but the scene with Little Edie dumping a bag of catfood and a loaf of bread on the attic floor for their sickly, mangy animals to help themselves to is a parallel that is pretty hard to miss.

    Despite the outrage the viewer feels on behalf of these improbably plucky and endearing heroines, the film certainly has its luminous moments which lift it far above the cliche-ridden news story it could so easily have been. On a golden September afternoon, Little Edie reels down the beach toward the surf, then suddenly dives through a wave, and waterborne, becomes as lithe and graceful a swimmer as you might imagine she was at 16, and every bit as beautiful; her years of suffering and the "mistakes" she alludes to are washed into the sea and we glimpse for a moment the woman she might have been, or actually the woman she is, but without the illness, and it is a transcendant moment of peace in the film, a blessed break from the constant hammering and bickering dialogue. Sheltered if not exactly pampered, Little Edie is youthful, coquettish, rebellious, and sometimes downright naughty as a woman can be at 56. By the standards of 1975, she was in fact a senior citizen, but watching her today (when it's said the 50s are the new 30s) strutting and dancing and flirting shamelessly with both the camera and the Maysles, she has clearly slipped past the boundaries of time, a genuinely agless spirit transcending the most depressing circumstances with a cheerful wave of her flag, optimism for her future, and a knowing wink to the camera. And for some inexplicable reason, we can't help smiling back.

    This is an astonishing film which raises some very disturbing questions about human dignity and grace -- and forces us to ask ourselves some pretty disturbing questions, too. What is madness? Why are we watching this film (again?)? How can it be that we can be so disturbed, so angered, so depressed, and so uplifted all at the same time? If Shakespeare had been a filmmaker, this is the film he would have made. I think I'll go watch it again....more info
    I gave it 5 stars in honor of the two Edies. But how disgusting that Jackie Kennedy did not set up a financial fund for these two relatives of hers. She could have easily seen to it that the Beales had a monthly allowance that would have given them back their dignity. I heard she did a few things for the Beales but obviously did not fracture herself trying too hard to do them much good. Anyone else related to them who just ignored their plight is just as guilty. Did they profit at all from the film made of them ?! I hope so. Also,both Big Edie and Little Edie probably needed mental health care of some sort. Maybe even just temporary mental help ,but did they ever receive it ? Both were delightful women, so this film was rather sad because they lived in unnecessary poverty and abandonment. Yes they were eccentric and fantastic, but odd that you don't hear much concern for them at all. I've read comments that the Beales were "psychologically fascinating" and crap like that. As if they were specimens. I found a Grey Gardens "fan" site and homage that made me ill due to it's sniveling delight regarding the two Edies,because their story was actually just very sad and someone should have given them more help. How can anyone get so hysterically delighted when the Beales were so ignored and were so needy ? They became victims of people who delighted in their sad lives. That's not being a true "fan" of the Beales....more info
  • My new favorite movie
    I adore this movie. Each time I watch it, I get something new out of it and feel differently about it. Today, my feeling is:
    For all of Little Edie's yearnings and mournings of a life interrupted, I wish she could have seen that she indeed had freedom. Little Edie had the remarkable ability to truly be herself un-self-consciously without feeling the need to change a thing. How many of you can say that?...more info
  • 1976 documentary of the Beales
    I saw the play on Broadway, and was enchanted with the story of the mother and daughter Beales - "Little and Big Edie". This documentary is just fascinating and anyone who buys it will love it, especially if they've seen the play....more info
  • The Film Makers Stay Out of the Way.
    What I loved most about seeing this cult classic, is that it illustrated a style of documentary film making where the Maysles brothers' total focus was to creat an intimate relationship between the two Eddie's and the viewing audience. David and Albert Maysles put these women at such ease, treated them with such care and respect, that you truly are spending two hours in their private world of Grey Gardens. Even though it is a little shocking to see how they lived in such filth, it also is a tale of two women who were ahead of their time, independent thinkers and artists. Two women that lived in a time when women were defined by the men they married. Big and Little Edie chose another path. Indeed they paid a price, but every day they woke up and did exactly what they wanted to do at Grey Gardens. Much of the time that meant expressing their creative talents. Big Edie sang and Little Edie danced. In addition to the original film, this DVD provides insightful commentary as well as a photo gallery and fascinating interviews. I am so happy that this story has been told! Watch the DVD with friends and then have a round table discussion in regards to how the film pushes our buttons. It seems to ask us to examine how we are living our lives, are we being true to our artistic nature? How do we create our own Grey Gardens without the sacrifice the two Edie's had to make, just to sing and dance a little?...more info