Kudos to Jessica Lang and Drew Barrymore for transcending the Hollywood ideal and daring to appear less than gorgeous. As this movie started, Jessica was right on target as marginal socialite Edith Bouvier Beale, but Drew was a bit young for the role as debutante “Little Edie”. Never fear. Their resemblance to each other is uncanny. And the story vacillates between the 1930’s and the 1970’s, with these two actresses demonstrating the chutzpah to portray old.
Since I was awake and aware during the ’70’s, I’m sorry to report that I had never heard of these people, in spite of the documentary of their lives produced by Maysles brothers at the time. Duh. No matter, now I know. Edie the younger had been groomed to make a proper, prosperous marriage, according to her business magnate father. Her mother, however, was a show biz wanna-be, who taught her daughter to be a freer sort of spirit, but somehow young Edie’s dreams also failed to materialize.
Long story short, mother and daughter end up genteel paupers, raising generations of cats amid the decaying Hamptons “summer cottage” owned by the mother. Jeanne Tripplehorn was spot on as newlywed Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who intervened to rehabilitate her aunt’s home when the story hit the tabloids.
Gray Gardens is a quiet, bittersweet story about mothers and daughters and their intermingled hopes and dreams. HBO produced this movie, and they deserve recognition for their attempts to provide quality programming on television. Watch it for its stellar performances by some true professionals.