Edith Ewing Bouvier “Big Edie” and Edith Bouvier Beale “Little Edie” was first introduced to the world in the early 70’s by Albert and David Maysles through the eyes, memories, voice, journals, and letters of Little Edie. The documentary was so successful that Michael Sucsy and Patricia Rozema decided to recreate the documentary and turn it into a film. It first aired on HBO on April 18, 2009.
Big Edie (Jessica Lange) and Little Edie (Drew Barrymore) again showed the world how the Bouviers went from riches to rags. Big Edie was born into wealth, her father John Bouvier, Jr. was a very prominent attorney but the real riches came from the grandfather, Michel, whom earned his fortune through real estate prospects. Her brother, John, or better known to most at that time as “Black Jack”. He was a very prominent stockbroker and the father of Jackie Bouvier. Jackie was better known as the First Lady and wife of J.F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States.
Big Edie was married to Phelan Beale, a very prominent attorney at the beginning of the film. She was too busy throwing extravagant parties and drinking to see that her marriage was falling apart. They divorced in 1931 but she continued to party until she was nearly broke. In the divorce decrement she was awarded the East Hampton mansion, Grey Gardens. During this time Little Edie was away pursing a singing, acting, and modeling career and a relationship with a wealthy, married gentleman. Of course, that all fell through and she decided to return to Grey Gardens and reside with her mother.
With the riches came extravagant parties, high society friends, maids, gardeners, and other much needed staff to run and maintain the mansion. That slowly changed over time because Big Edie could not afford to pay their salaries on her measly $150 monthly trust allowance. The mansion slowly began to deteriorate and fill with debris, dead animals, and garbage because they had no clue how to clean and maintain it. The phone line and electricity was disconnected making life very difficult at Grey Gardens for the two former socialites.
When Little Edie returned to Grey Gardens she never once thought that she would be stuck there caring for her mother but she was a dedicated daughter and that is exactly what she did until her death in 1977, not long after the documentary aired on national television.
When the media and tabloids got news of how the Bouviers (The First Lady’s Kin) were residing in imperfect living conditions she decided to visit Grey Gardens and was shocked by the dirty, decaying environment. She donated around $73,000 to renovate the mansion and to save her reputation.
Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore did an impeccable job bringing these two eccentric ladies to life in this wonderful film.
If you are looking for a lot of drama with a twist of comedy this is the perfect film for you. Have your tissues close at hand because you will shed a tear or two. I give this film nine stars and it is a must see for everyone.