The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006)

beales of grey gardens dvd criterion
8.5 Overall Score

Hard to look away

A bit of abuse of the subjects in some ways

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Beales of Grey Gardens

Studio:  Maysles Films

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  July 21, 2006

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

beales of grey gardens house

Come back to Grey Gardens…it’s a fixer-upper

Albert and David Maysles return to Grey Gardens to visit “Big” Edie and “Little” Edie Beale and the Beales continue to live in their decrepit home known as Grey Gardens.  Overrun with raccoons and vines, Big Edie and Little Edie discuss their lives and their relationships with their famous cousin Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis.  Big Edie and Little Edie have big personalities and even bigger opinions on what is happening around them.

Directed by Albert and David Maysles, The Beales of Grey Gardens is a documentary feature.  The film is a follow-up to the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens.  The film focuses on Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale (October 5, 1895-February 5, 1977) and Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale (November 7 1917-January 14, 2002).  The film was well received, and the Criterion Collection released a version of the film (Criterion #361).

beales of grey gardens little edie criterion

Little Edie is still in top form

Grey Gardens was one of those trainwreck movies that you can’t turn away from Big Edie and Little Edie argue, live surrounded by trash, and bicker for the course of the film.  The Beales of Grey Gardens is more of the same.

The movie still revels in the wreck of the life of the Beales, but it feels a little less flaunting of it than the previous film.  While the house does catch fire at a point and Little Edie does feed the raccoons and multitudes of cats (though the cat numbers were down).  Some of the grosser aspects of Grey Gardens aren’t as prevalent here, but they still are underlying.

Edie gets a bit more into aspects of her life, her view of current politics, and her cousin Jackie (and her relationship with Onassis).  While it is this insight you crave while watching the movie, it is rather thin and far between.  Despite wallowing in filth, the Beales still speak intelligently and give a worldly sophisticated air to them.  It is a strange balance that both documentaries manage to reach.

beales of grey gardens big edie

Big Edie…enabler?

The documentary itself isn’t new material.  The film was released in 2006 after the deaths of both Big Edie and Little Edie.  It is made up of the hours and hours of footage that the Maysles recorded while making the original Grey Gardens in the early 1970s.  It helps to know the period simply to know what some of Little Edie’s musings relating to gas shortages and problems with Nixon.

The Beales of Grey Gardens is a worthwhile sequel to a documentary that is a fun watch.  You could argue that the both this film and Grey Gardens is cruel to the Beales, but I don’t know that the Beales would truly care…and if they don’t care, the audience shouldn’t care.  They know they are eccentric and they know they are unique…and the Maysles have made them someone you’ll always remember.

Related Links:

Grey Gardens (1975)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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