Grey Gardens (1975)
"It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present," says Little Edie Beale early on in Grey Gardens, "You know what I mean?" In a way, the intent of this documentary is to help us understand what she means. You see, Edie, 56 years old at the time the film was made, lives with her mother Edith in a mansion in East Hampton, Long Island called Grey Gardens that could accurately be described as the estate that time forgot.
The house is falling apart: the walls are being torn apart, there is garbage everywhere, and raccoons, cats, and humans coexist somehow. Edith and Edie have become almost institutionalized in this place, and either don't notice what has happened to the house over many years, or they don't care. We get glimpses in photographs of the two of them in their younger years, and both were striking beauties in their own right, members of the Bouvier family--the aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy.
Eccentric is an understatement to describe these two women. Neither seems to have any concept of the outside world, though both are excellent communicators, as they talk and talk and talk, often overlapping one another, and even more often talking about the past. Edith was a singer in her day, and we hear her record. Edie wanted to be a dancer, but never really tried to. She talks about all of these things she "could have" done, but wasn't interested in actually doing at the time. And yet, here the two of them are, living their lives in isolation with one another, and somehow making it work.
I found this movie to be slightly interesting--what eccentric people are not interesting?--but I also found it to be very boring and even annoying at times when the two women are bickering relentlessly. It is interesting to observe the behavior of Edith and Edie and note how different their lives are from my own, but there was really no story here, only observation, and that's not enough for me in a film, unfortunately.
March 21, 2005