Grey Gardens (1975)
August 4, 2022 8:26 PM - Subscribe

This film explores the daily lives of two aging, eccentric relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Edie Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith, are the sole inhabitants of a Long Island estate. During the course of the documentary, they discuss their habits, desires and former loves with filmmakers Albert and David Maysles. The women reveal themselves to be misfits with outsized, engaging personalities. Much of the conversation is centered on their pasts, as mother and daughter now rarely leave home.

94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on HBO Max and Criterion and posted onto YouTube. Also available for digital rental on multiple outlets.
posted by DirtyOldTown (11 comments total)
And of course, there's the Documentary Now! episode, Sandy Passages, which brilliantly parodies this with Armisen and Hader as "Big Vivvy" and "Little Vivvy." It's almost a straight recreation, really, until things veer way, way off the rails.
posted by Naberius at 5:46 AM on August 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

There's also the remake with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, from 2009. I admit I've watched all of these out of a real fascination with these folks - though I don't love Armisen so didn't finish that one (and it sounds like I may have missed a lot). I'm just not sure either remake was necessary, or kind? I don't think Drew Barrymore intended to make fun of these people but I didn't really get the purpose of the remake. Won a bunch of awards though. Maybe that was the reason.
posted by Glinn at 6:01 AM on August 5, 2022

The Beales of Grey Gardens, a 2006 follow-up documentary composed of additional footage from the original shoot, is also on YouTube.
posted by bcwinters at 6:38 AM on August 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I am into this movie. I maybe shouldn't be. There are a lot of questions about vulnerable adults that filmmakers would be pressured to ask now and that they weren't then. But it has so much to show about being a woman, about wealth and class, about family, about mental health and trauma.

There's a musical that has some wonderful numbers and some cringe choices. (It creates a backstory that demonstrably didn't happen and is a weak character choice. It also suggests that Big Edie was a bad performer by having her sing racist songs.) But Little Edie's showstopping "Around the World," using a lot of her actual dialogue, is a heartbreaker.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:11 AM on August 5, 2022

Did anyone figure out what they might have had? I know it is irresponsible to diagnose someone from a documentary but they're so fascinating and widely studied there has to be a somewhat professional opinion about what the situation was. If it was contemporary I would have thought it was performative but this clearly was not.
posted by geoff. at 8:13 AM on August 5, 2022

Did anyone figure out what they might have had?

Classic hoarders is one take.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:09 AM on August 5, 2022

I posted both the followup doc and the doc made from the initial footage that attracted the Maysles.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:12 AM on August 5, 2022

Classic hoarder doesn't really explain their odd behavior. It was reported that Little Eddie had a cabaret show and they had to hide all negative reviews from her, and it was objectively horrible. A 60+ year old woman doing a cabaret show and believing they're actually good is delusional behavior, so it must be something a bit more than hoarder syndrome.
posted by geoff. at 9:22 AM on August 5, 2022

I didn't mean to imply that was explained everything, only that it's the one after-the-fact diagnosis I've seen.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2022

I have read -- I forget where -- that some of the lost footage showed Little Edie mentioning that her uncle(s) molested her; Big Edie was completely dismissive, blaming her, and that was that. To be honest, Little Edie said a lot of stuff. It's hard to know what to make of it.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:24 AM on August 5, 2022

And then YouTube showed me this Then And Now: Grey Gardens (from 2017)

SPOILER: Contains the story of a ghost sent on behalf of Big Edie.
posted by Glinn at 5:25 PM on August 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

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