On the 2nd of December, 2014, watched the television movie; based on real life events, that led to the eccentric lifestyles, of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ aunt and cousin, in their latter days; Grey Gardens (2009). One of the DVD’s I brought from Australia.

From Riches to Rags  Grey Gardens (2009) Based on a True Story

From Riches to Rags: Grey Gardens (2009). Based on a True Story (Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense)

In the early 1970’s, brothers (Documentary Filmmaking duo) Albert and David Maysles, had initially planned to document a film on former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ (widow of late President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and by now re-married, to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis), young life in East Hampton, New York. But once the project fell through, and having heard of the notorious scandal about ‘Grey Gardens’, a dilapidated house in the neighbourhood of East Hampton, New York, the brothers decided to make a documentary (a reality show), about Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter, (also named) Edith Bouvier Beale (Little Edie), the residents of ‘Grey Gardens’. Mrs. Bouvier Beale, was Jacqueline (née Bouvier) Kennedy’s father’s sister, thus Little Edie, was Jacqueline’s first cousin, who was almost 12 years older than Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Big Edie)

Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Big Edie) The Mother

Thus, the direct cinema documentary, Grey Gardens (1975), was born. The 2009 television film, starts off here, in the early 70’s, and flashes back to 1936, where Little Edie (magnificently played by Drew Barrymore), with Gardenias decorating her hair, is nervously getting ready for her ‘Débutante’ (a social event where a young lady from an aristocratic/Upper-Class family , is introduced to society at a formal presentation, once she has reached the age of maturity. Which meant the young lady was eligible to marry, and part of the purpose was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families within their circle). The film flashes back and forth, rendering a beautiful sad tale, of the fall of a high society mother and daughter, into poverty, negligence, loneliness and a dysfunctional, shabby, lifestyle.

Drew Barrymore (as the daughter, Little Edie) and Jessica Lange (as the mother, Big Edie) in a scene from Grey Gardens (2009)

Drew Barrymore (as the daughter, Little Edie) and Jessica Lange (as the mother, Big Edie) in a scene from Grey Gardens (2009)

Such a sad, tragic, heartrending story told, so beautifully, about the Bouvier Beale, mother and daughter. Jessica Lange does a superb portrayal of Big Edie, of her highs and lows, showcasing her high societal status and her decline into a reclusive, unsocial existence. While Drew Barrymore isn’t far behind as the daughter, Little Edie, capturing the tragic decent from class, elegance and sophistication to insanity, an untidy lifestyle and self-imprisonment in her mother’s home. This film brilliantly depicts, the unhappy life of Mother and daughter, living in seclusion, and extreme poverty, within their property, completely cut off from society. A rare real life tragedy, of a mother and daughter’s deterioration from riches to rags.

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her younger days.

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her younger days.

Their lives and home, were ultimately in such pathetic state, that finally Jackie O’ (played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, in a cameo, in the movie), came to their rescue. Why Big Edie’s two sons, never bothered to help them, remains a mystery. At the same time, Big Edie, never wanted to leave ‘Grey Gardens’, either, for it had been her home, since she acquired it in 1924. So in 1972, Jacqueline Onassis, helped them, donating money and workmen, to bring back the house to a habitable standard, that wasn’t in violation of any New York health codes.

 

Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Jessica Lange as Big Edie, in a scene from, Grey Gardens (2009)

Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Jessica Lange as Big Edie, in a scene from, Grey Gardens (2009)

I heard about the 1975 documentary, over 10 years ago, and had an interest in checking it out back then. Then this television movie came out in 2009, but I thought I’d rather watch the documentary first, and then the feature film. But when I saw the DVD, of the new film, available Down Under, I just had to buy it. Now, after watching Grey Gardens (2009), am even more keen on watching the original documentary, Grey Gardens (1975) by the Maysles Brothers.

Grey Gardens

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her older days at ‘Grey Gardens’.

The Maysles duo deserve a great thank you, for bringing out the lives of these amazingly astonishing women, who were helplessly stuck in the past. If not for these brothers’ documentary, these two women, would have been long forgotten, erased from history. And a bigger gratitude to director Michael Sucsy, for bringing out this wonderful feature adaptation for the small screen. This fascinating film honours and sympathises with these two tragic individuals, without making a mockery of them. It’s a sad, yet beautiful, movie to sit through.

Miss Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Little Edie) The Daughter

Miss Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Little Edie) The Daughter

After the success of the 1975 documentary, Big Edie passed away, in 1977. Little Edie finally sold the house in 1979. Little Edie died all alone in 2002, and her body was discovered, five days after her death. A sad end to a tragic life.

Grey Gardens (2009), won two Golden Globes, one for ‘Best Television Movie’, and a ‘Best Actress’ award for Drew Barrymore. Jessica Lange was also nominated in the same category as Barrymore. Plus, this movie, won six Emmy Awards, including for ‘Best Television Movie’, and ‘Best Actress’ for Jessica Lange. Drew Barrymore too was nominated in the same category as well. Added to which this television film got various accolades at various award functions. Excellent 10/10 !!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Television Film Sense
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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