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How Does That Make Me Feel: Spoiler Alert! Grey Gardens=Sad!

I’d long been looking forward to HBO’s fictional retelling of the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens, which told the story of Edith and Edie Beale, the aunt and cousin of Jackie O., and when it premiered a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to watch it. I had read an article in Vogue which commended the fact that Drew Barrymore finally had a serious role which showed off her acting talents (not that her cover girl commercials are anything to sneeze at) and that the whole thing was going to be fantastic. I have to admit that much of my anticipation had to do with the costumes and set. That's a little silly, yes, but I know that if nothing else, an HBO film is going to be marvelously produced, down to the last detail. So, even if I don't love it, it would be pretty to look at, right? And pretty it was--pretty depressing! What follows is a run-down of my emotions (along with some spoilers) while watching this sad, sad film that works as a retelling of the making of the famous documentary about two secluded, delusional women living in a completely decrepit mansion.

********SPOILERS AHEAD**************

I had read somewhere (maybe in Vogue? Or maybe I didn’t read it, but saw it on TV? Everything’s a blur.) that Drew had to really go to great measures in order to get into character. For example, she spent a year working with a vocal coach in order to learn how to speak like Eddie Beale. Hearing that it took her A YEAR (really, Drew?) made me at first think “wow, this is really going to be something to see, I’m looking forward to it” and then, upon reflection, “wait a minute, it took you that long to learn to speak with an east coast rich person’s accent? Really?” Overall, this piece of information left me a little less assured that this would be a fantastic viewing experience, and I started to get a little: NERVOUS.As soon as the movie began, I knew it would leave me feeling uncomfortable and depressed. The film was mostly linear, but used some flashbacks so that even during the filming of documentary we could see what these women were in happier times. An early scene in the movie showed a young, happy Drew as a teenage Little Edie Beale walking hand-in-hand along the beach with her little cousin, Jackie. She was beautiful, smart, and full of promise. I knew where this was going. Of course, even in happy times there were hints of the looming future decay, such as when big Edie tells her daughter not to let herself become stressed, since stress makes her hair fall out (Alopecia). Even though I felt mildly happy watching a young, healthy girl move to New York with her father and pursue her dreams as an actress, knowing what would happen mad me feel: SAD.Inevitably, Little Edie had to leave New York, miss her big break opportunity to audition for some big time producer, and had to move back in with her mother. Over the years she wanted to move back to New York, give acting another go, and just get away from Grey Gardens (which began falling apart after her father's death, which didn't leave them enough money to maintain the mansion) but she could never break away. As this continued, I have to admit that it all became too predictable. Where were the twists? Yes, her dreams were dashed, but--there was no but. Though it might indicate that I have no soul, around the middle of this film I was feeling pretty: BORED.Eventually, as the documentary was being filmed and the board of health tried to evict the Beals on the grounds that the house was uninhabitable, word finally got around to Jackie (where had she been all this time??). When Jackie O. (played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, aka Barb from Big Love! Woot!) came to visit her aunt and cousin and offered to rebuild the house and clean it all up for them, I thought "finally! Someone in this huge wealthy family steps in to help the poor crazies." As the house was restored to its original glory, and it seemed as if the women wouldn't have to finish out their days in miserable conditions, I felt momentarily: HAPPY.Unfortunately, even with Jackie's help, the house wasn't really kept up, because the Edies didn't really care to keep it up. Even with the house rebuilt, they more or less went back to their previous state of isolation and loneliness. After the documentary filming was complete, and the filmmakers left, Edie and her mother were even more alone. More sadness! However, in the end the film was (sort of) a hit, Little Edie attended the screening, and she finally felt like an actress. Now, here's the thing I didn't really follow. During the whole filming of the documentary, little Edie didn't really seem to get it. She kept acting as if she were acting in a role, as if the word would finally see how talented and wonderful she really was. I kept waiting and waiting for this to blow up in her face, but it never did. Her mother even discouraged her from attending the screening, saying that she doesn't see herself the way other people will see her. But Edie goes, receives applause, flowers, and as the movie ends, we're told that Edith died shortly after the film's release and Little Edie lived in all the fabulous places since she was finally able to travel, and that she was even asked to perform her own cabaret show in New York. And that's it. I think we're supposed to feel good by this ending...but it just made me even more depressed. It still seemed like she didn't really get it, and that she was more of a freak show than an actress, and that she had wasted much of her life stuck in this sad little world with her mother. All in all, I was feeling: VERY SAD.
But, as I predicted...it was pretty to look at.

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