Criterion Sunday 361: The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006)

I suppose it was inevitable in this series — especially now that I’m doing them twice a week — that I’d eventually miss an entry, though this isn’t the first. However, as I’ve moved halfway around the world, this one slipped a little as I wasn’t able to watch it before we left. I shall try to avoid any more glaring holes.


It turns out that when the Maysles brothers were filming the Beales for Grey Gardens (1975), they had enough footage to craft this sequel of sorts, revisiting them in their weirdly cut-off little bit of derelict suburbia, as they continue to seem addled and out of time. I suppose it makes clear that any successful documentary at least comes down to the screen presence of its subjects, and the Beales (scions of the same family as Jackie Kennedy) certainly have that, as the elderly mother constantly berates her preening show-offy daughter, while the latter is constantly playing up for the camera, singing songs or swanning around showing off her seemingly homemade fashions. Indeed it becomes almost a familiar rejoinder that the younger Edie says something only for her mother’s voice to pipe in from off camera correcting her or saying that never happened. One wonders at times, as in the original, about the ethics of the thing, as the Beales hardly seem the most present in mind, but it’s fairly benign I think and there’s a lot here for fans of the original.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Directors Albert Maysles and David Maysles; Cinematographer Albert Maysles; Length 91 minutes.

Seen at a hotel (Blu-ray), Auckland, Thursday 15 October 2016.

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