‘The Beales of Grey Gardens’


Improbably resurrected this year as a Broadway musical, the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens (1975) documented the bizarre home life of two aristocratic shut-ins, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Little Edie. Living in an unkempt East Hampton mansion, Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin bicker, sing, and play dress-up in a vérité fever dream that plays like Sunset Blvd. rewritten by Tennessee Williams. Disparaged by many critics for its condescension, it was exploitative but also impossible to look away from. Making its debut as a midnight movie, The Beales of Grey Gardens is ess entially leftovers: footage from the original shoot that, not surprisingly, offers more of the same and lacks the first film’s sense of revelation. It’s not clear that we needed another hour and a half of shrill Little Edie’s wan philosophizing and conspiratorial gibberish. But there’s still the occasional moment of terror, as when the psychologically domineering mom castigates her daughter for putting out a fire with an expensive blanket. And when former beauty Edie sings, “You Ought to Be in Pictures,” the regret could break your heart.