Patricia Rozema

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Grey Gardens (2009) Review


Extraordinary
Most serious film fans know the story of Grey Gardens: how documentarians Albert and David Maysles were investigating the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis's sister Lee Radziwill for a film and stumbled upon the unforgettable duo of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Little Eddie; how it took a year of "convincing" before the women would allow them to film in their manor; how the resulting motion picture turned the plight of these discarded society matrons into the stuff of living legend; and how since the movie's success, the Beales' story has been adapted into books, a Broadway musical, and a stage play. Now HBO puts its spin on the material, bringing Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore to the small screen for the TV version of this intriguing tale -- and it's also amazing, just like the subjects.

When they are approached by the Maysles (Arye Gross, Justin Louis) about making a movie of their life, Big Edith Beale (Lange) and her daughter Little Edie (Barrymore) are a tad suspicious. After all, they have let few people in their decaying Hamptons home, and the last time anyone showed up, it was the county health inspector threatening to condemn the mansion. Intrigued by the idea of being in a movie however, the duo agree, and soon we are whisked back to the days when Big Edith suffered through her straight-laced husband Phelan (Ken Howard) as Little Edie wooed Truman Cabinet member Julius Krug (Daniel Baldwin). As she ages, the sullen matriarch wants more freedom. Instead, she becomes a virtual recluse in her home, calling on her jet-setting offspring to come home and care for her. Thanks to relative Jackie Onassis (Jeanne Tripplehorn), they have enough money to live on. But their life is still one of misguided dreams and internalized strife.

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