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GREY GARDENS (directors: Albert Maysles/David Maysles/Ellen Hovde/Muffie Meyer; cinematographers: Albert Maysles/David Maysles; editors: Susan Fromke/Ellen Hovde/Muffie Meyer; cast: Edith Bouvier Beale (Herself), Edie Beale (Herself), Jack Helmuth (Birthday Guest), Brooks Hires (Gardener); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Albert Maysles/David Maysles; Janus Films; 1975)

“Depressing cinéma véritéfilm.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The noted pioneering documentarian brothers, Albert and David Maysles (“Gimme Shelter“/”Salesman”/”The Gates”),direct this depressing cinéma vérité film about the separated 79-year-old Edith Bouvier Beale (aka: Big Edie) and her 56-year-old daughter Edie (aka: Little Edie), social register elites who have been ostracized by their former high-society crowd and have fallen on bad times to live in squalor in their 28-room mansion on East Hampton, NY, called the Grey Gardens. The shallow biopic overstays its welcome, coldly exploiting these talkative eccentrics who seem not to be all there living as near recluses in a dilapidated mansion with too many cats, racoons and fleas. Some may find this invasive film interesting only because the subjects are the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, otherwise this is an unwatchable and cruelly exploitative film. The camera freely shoots as the attention-deprived ladies gab away non-stop at whatever strikes their fancy: they openly chat about what petty things bothers them, have a few verbal spats and make up, sing a few tunes badly, relate a few incidents from their past and make comments about Edie’s former suitors. Nothing much happens, a few visitors show up for dull brief visits, Edie goes through various costume changes (seemingly into scarves) and several rambling rants that include the threat of leaving mom to live in Manhattan. The gals are shut-ins bewildered that life has passed them by and have nothing worth saying about their travails, except they are sympathetic characters and I thought were treated coldly by the filmmakers. Though the subjects saw things differently, evidently enjoying all the attention and inviting the brothers to film them again. What can I tell you!


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”