Grey Gardens

by

I’ve never seen ‘Grey Gardens’. I’ve never seen a real garden for that matter. But I like it that way. Here is my review of ‘Grey Gardens’.

Mousey little debutantes hiding in trees. Erstwhile socialites positively humming with fleas. Young man, young man, Miss Edie would like to beg a favour before you leave. This is an unchivalrous age but I can tell you are a gentleman young man. Please assist Miss Edie with her crunchy underskirts. She seems to have become entangled.

The strapping young fellow steps gallantly up with his helpful forearms displayed in an attitude of gentlemanliness. Never fear, ma’am, he says and daintily lifts the frayed lace-work up to a dusty shaft of light. But wait! There is nothing wrong with the underskirts. He looks up. Miss Edie grimaces like a deranged succubus. Her withered reptilian eyeballs, now visible, roll with fearsome desires. She leaps upon the terrified youth, a frothing maenad who intends to take her pleasure upon him. She ruts him like a monstrous guinea pig then eats his bones. It is a shocking bit of footage.

Now that Teddy Kennedy – that proud shepherd of men who, with dauntless breast, would not be cowed by the unreconstructed prejudices of the highway code – has snuffed it, we forget how easy it was for his family to evade the law during the mid-twentieth century. Edie and Edith Bouvier Beale were only distant relations of Teddy, Jack and Bobby, but they were nevertheless able to molest and eat their way through the male population of the eastern seaboard for twenty years without fear of recrimination.

This documentary reminds us of their mucky legacy. It informs us that their collective body count surpassed that of Ed Gein, Ted Bundy and the Ham Burglar put together. There has been a tendency in recent years to sentimentalise this murderous mother-and-daughter team. In Drew Barrymore’s portrayal of Miss Edie, for instance, she was depicted as a sort of cross between Florence Nightingale and Robin Hood – a misguided philanthropist whose prolific consumption of human flesh was driven by a need to get closer to her fellow beings. This documentary turns that idea on its head. Then it leaves it there.

But for all that, there is something faintly titillating about Miss Edie, with her suggestively greasy headscarf and what the Marquis de Sade would have called her ‘fuck-me-lazy-eye’. It just goes to show that the most dangerous creatures come in the most pleasing packages.

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