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Grey Gardens - made-for-television movie DVD / drama DVD / HBO DVD review
GREY GARDENS Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Actors: Drew Barrymore, Jessica Lange, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ken Howard, Daniel Baldwin
Director: Michael Sucsy   Studio: HBO
DVD release: 14 July 2009   Runtime: 104 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo - Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Audio commentary (exec. prods. Michael Sucsy, Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Rachael Horovitz), "Grey Gardens: Then and Now"

In 1975, a documentary called Grey Gardens was released to wide acclaim. The film looked at the incredible lives of formerly well-to-do relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Edith Bouvier Beale, Jackie O's aunt, and Edie Bouvier Beale, her cousin, lived alone in Grey Gardens, the formerly splendid family summer home on Long Island. Once society darlings before their fortune and popularity dwindled, 1975 found them living at Grey Gardens with their many cats. They had previously made the public spotlight when the health department discovered nearly evicted them from the house filthy with cat and raccoon refuse, plaster falling from the walls, the roof leaking and windows broken.

What the new Grey Gardens does is fill in the spots before the documentary was made. Edie (Drew Barrymore) was a beautiful young society girl with hopes of making a break on Broadway. When she was discovered to be having an affair with a married man, her father took her to live with her mother at Grey Gardens, and there she stayed.

Edith's (Jessica Lange) husband, Phelan Beale (Ken Howard), was a lawyer and a practical man willing to cut corners when the Great Depression set in, managing to keep his family in good standing. Edith did not want to cut the staff at Grey Gardens during the Depression, but Phelan forced the issue. They ended up growing apart when Edith wanted to live on Long Island full-time, leaving her husband to work in the city all week and coming to Grey Gardens only on the weekend.

HBO Films knows how to allow a creative vision to flourish. With Grey Gardens 2009, those who knew and loved the original documentary are allowed to see more of the story dramatized in a skilled and believable way, and those who hadn't before heard of Grey Gardens discover a wonderful film. The performances are excellent, especially Barrymore and Lange's. Barrymore captures the essence of Edie Bouvier Beale beautifully - she practically channels her.

The making-of featurette included on the DVD shows footage from the original documentary. Some of the scenes from the doc, though dramatized, are nearly indistinguishable from the original. The makeup work on both Lange and Barrymore deserves special singling out. At no point does it look like a makeup effect; especially the thinner skin of the arms and chest looks realistically age-appropriate. Amazing work all around.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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