Even if ceilings crack, walls crumble, food is cat’s liver patè, money is sparse, and raccoons infest her house, Edie dances. Even if a mother misguides and contradicts her, abominable fleas thrive, a town is on the verge of raiding her house, and the world outside of the door is an unknown universe, Edie dances.
Yes, no matter how many gritty aspects of life topple onto her shoulders, Little Edie dances her less-than-stellar dance. Two-steps, marching, waltzes… on and on she’ll go, never letting a gray cloud barricade the streaming light that pours onto her while dancing.
Edie is not the only one waltzing in the dark, though. The documentary, “Grey Gardens,” waltzes with her. With the material it hauls on its back, the documentary looks like it may lose its beat. But no; the documentary keeps waltzing, to the extent where the low-budget & production value fiesta feels like a glorious spectacle.
“Grey Gardens,” released on February 19, 1976, is a documentary created by the Maysles Bros., showing the lives of “Little” Edith Bouvier Beale, and “Big” Edith Bouvier Beale. “Big” Edith is a once-wealthy aristocrat turned poor, after a “fake Mexican divorce” (as Edie says) with the supplier of the money. She is the bedridden aunt of Jacqueline Kennedy, and daughter Edie is Kennedy’s thoroughly self-absorbed cousin.
Speaking of Kennedy, the documentary makers actually started off planning a Jacqueline Kennedy documentary, but after the Maysles Bros. filmed the aunt and cousin, they put Jacqueline Kennedy’ on the shelf, and changed the documentary to “Grey Gardens.”
The making of the documentary was simple. The brothers simply stood in the background and filmed the mother and daughter’s everyday lives, and chimied in on occasion. Sounds boring? Well, these two’s daily lives aren’t ordinary. In fact, they are surreal. From Edie praising her own wardrobe, feeding raccoons, and speaking her opinion on anything her heart desires to the camera, to “Big” Edith, trying to get her singing vibrato back as it was in the days of yore; it all feels like they were given scripts and acted it out.
I say this, because I have never experienced a documentary that is so drama-packed and entertaining as this. It’s one of the few documentaries that goes on for an hour and a half, and doesn’t make you lethargic half way through… The scenes are cut at the perfect timing, the duo consistently deliver words that make you chuckle, and there are quirky camera angles that are interesting to watch. (Sometimes even funny.) All of this makes the documentary kick it’s feet even higher, to go on with the waltz.
For what it’s worth, “Grey Gardens,” is truly a documentary masterpiece, that should be seen by every person of every era. Before you know it, the documentary and Edie will make you dance with it in glee.
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