Friday, January 27, 2006

"Grey Gardens"

I recently had the odd and good fortune to see this fascinating documentary, and what an experience it was! The film chronicles "Big" Edie Bouvier, and her daughter, "Little" Edie over approximately one year in their East Hampton mansion in 1976. These women are 2 of the most eccentric people you will ever witness.Although they are from the famous, aristocratic Bouvier family and are direct kin of Jackie O. and Lee Radziwill, they are anything but conventional.

First and foremost, their mansion is a disaster and was condemned several times over by the Board of Health. It is overrun by cats, raccoons and, God knows, what else. Instead of banning these animals, the two Edies court and feed them as pets. They are so comfortable with them, in fact, that one scene depicts a cat relieving itself behind a portrait of Big Edie and her responding that she is "glad someone is doing what they like around here."

I believe a short character explanation is due here: Little Edie is 55 years old and has never grown past the mind-set of a 24 year old. She wears these wild and crazy (and often risque) outfits that look like they were pulled randomly from the dryer, while dancing around the house (and sometimes singing and waving a flag.) Since the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, Big Edie appears at one point half naked, singing along to old records from the 1920's. She also by turns bitches at and praises her daughter, both to extremes. Clearly, these two are operating according to the rules of the "crazy cat-lady" manual.

Honestly, I could write a doctoral dissertation on any one of many themes in this film. It is one big campy carnival. Spin the crazy wheel and take your pick from: their speech patterns; their wildly awesome phrases; what constitutes crazy v. your "average" eccentric; watching while Little Edie's wasted life runs out before your eyes; Big Edie's responsibility for her daughter's lack of life experience; the question of whether or not people have to be nutso to be creative; Little Edie's moments of extreme clarity and brilliant insights and observations about life.

There has already been so much written about this movie though, that I don't think I have anything new to add. I would, however, just like to point out that the DVD release has all kinds of extras, including stills of many of the 58 cats that rule the roost. They are mostly all short-haired, and I saw several polydactyls, which, I believe, are common on the east coast of the U.S. The cats are truly members of the Bouvier family roaming everywhere, and lounging all over the beds and each other.
Here is an example of some of the cats:

So, rent this movie, (if you can't find it at a chain store, go local or Netflix) because, even if somehow it doesn't captivate you as it did me, at least there is some good kitty action. The dames may be loony, but the cats are topnotch, my friends, just topnotch!


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