Sunday, April 27, 2014

Grey Gardens

Directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer, Grey Gardens is a documentary film about the everyday lives of duo of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie as they live in a ravaged mansion known as Grey Gardens in East Hampton, New York. The film is a look into the lives of these two women as they are the relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. With the Maysles brothers shooting the film while Hovde and Meyer co-edit the film with producer Susan Froemke. The result is a fascinating yet off-the-wall film from the Maysles Brothers.

Shot in the course of a year from the fall of 1971, the film explore the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie who live in the Grey Gardens mansion in East Hampton, New York as the home is in absolute ruins and a complete mess filled with cats and raccoons where the latter live in the attic eating sandwich bread and dry cat food. It’s a film that showcases the lives of these two women where Edie is 56 years old during the production of the film while Edith was near her 80s at the time of filming. What prompts the Maysles Brothers and their collaborators to take part in this documentary when news emerged about the awful condition of the Grey Gardens mansion as it’s not up to code forcing their cousin Jacqueline Kennnedy Onassis to come in and clean the place while providing funds so the two can live in the house under a more stable condition while having food and such delivered.

Throughout the course of the film, the two women talk about their lives and what drove them to live in such squalor and seclusion as they’re surrounded by cats as the few people they have contact with includes a handyman and some old friends of Edith. Much of the film has this very direct approach in telling the story where the two women talk about their past and each other as Edie is often conflicted about leaving yet she feels the need to take care of her mother no matter how annoying she can be. Edie also wants to recapture a part of her youth through singing and dancing despite being in her 50s as she is still able to dance and sing. Edie would often annoy her mother through her singing and dancing as Edith would talk about all of the opportunities Edie had and squandered causing tension between the two women.

The film has the Maysles Brothers and their collaborators go for something simple as they would follow the two women around and even talk to the handyman Jerry at times as he often has conversations with Edith. Some of the things that the Maysles Brothers capture is truly startling from not just the home but also the things that happen inside. There’s moments where the craziness that occurs do get overwhelming at times yet it plays true to the eccentric work the ladies are in as it’s edited with such style and precision by co-directors Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer along with producer Susan Froemke. There’s even moments where the Maysles Brothers appear on camera with soundman Lee Dichter as the women are talking to them.

Grey Gardens is a bizarre yet engaging documentary film from the Maysles Brothers, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer. It’s a film that isn’t just this strange portrait of a mother-daughter duo but also a film that explores the art of documentary in its evolution as it’s very direct and to the point no matter how bad things can be. In the end, Grey Gardens is an extraordinary film from the Maysles Brothers, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer.

© thevoid99 2014

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