One of my favourite films of last year was on Channel 4 on Christmas Day; Grey Gardens, a dramatisation of the lives of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale, starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.
The movie is based on the famous documentary of the same name, made in 1976 by Albert and David Maysles. It depicts the daily lives of the two Edies, a socialite mother and daughter, living in their house, Grey Gardens, in East Hampton. They had gained notoriety due to the squalor they were living in, which was as a result of living alone for decades with very little money. When The National Enquirer ran an article showing the filth of their living conditions and revealing that the two ladies were about to be evicted and the house demolished by the Health Department, their cousin Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis provided the necessary money to repair and clean the delapidated house.
The documentary has been a cult classic since its release and is definitely worth a watch. The filmmakers of the 2009 HBO production starring Lange and Barrymore have been very sensitive in their interpretation of the source material and the result is a fantastic film. The house has been recreated perfectly, from its beautifully decorated airy rooms in their original state to the eventual disaster the women created around themselves.
Drew Barrymore is a revelation in the role of Little Edie Beale. While I have always liked Barrymore, recently she seems to have become a romcom staple and it’s not a genre I’m overly fond of. In Grey Gardens however she really flexes her acting chops and reminds audiences that she is a formidable acting talent.
I’d recommend watching the original documentary before watching the film, to really gain a proper appreciation for the amazing performances and attention to detail. Unfortunately it seems that the movie is only available to buy as a Region 1 DVD on Amazon but hopefully that will change in the New Year.