Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grey Gardens

WORTH-IT: (Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Muffie Meyer) The 1975 documentary reveals Edith Beale and her daughter Edie Beale living in the filth which they refer to as their East Hampton mansion. Their story, gisted well here, here, and here explains the background. I took interest in this original after seeing a strung out duo of Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange publicize their work in the remake at this year's Oscar ceremony. The strange way the pair flaunted their upcoming film struck a chord with me, as I knew briefly of the history of the strange pair of real Beales. The documentary is hard to watch. It's from 1975, so consists of straight shooting. The women do all the talking and entertaining, sometimes bringing their face close to the camera or putting on small performances. Their ignorance and delusion is so crystal clear it becomes tragic to watch, but at the same time hypnotizing. Their filth is radiant. Feeding cats off the same plates they feed themselves. Eating canned food and throwing the leftovers to the animals roaming through their hallways. Dinner consists of cottage cheese on crackers, or ice cream from the tub. I watched it for 15-20 minutes at a time, quickly becoming disgusted at the candid grotesque these women called life. What was once a beautiful, reputable mansion was left overgrown and rotting. The women seem unaware and almost uncomfortable with the thought of leaving. Turning it off each time forced me to shake my head, snap out of it and move on. It took almost a week to watch. But, I must say that the raw filming was gripping. I was entranced, locked in on their portraits, locked in watching their disenchantment flourish and their reputation relent. I recommend it to history buffs, those interested in the history of the socialite society, particularly that of East Hampton. It's truly fascinating if you can put up with the literal nastiness. Plus, it gives you the adequate portrait before we see Lange and Barrymore's tripped out attempt at recreation. I'm looking forward to it.

Away We Go

MUST-SEE: (Sam Mendes) Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski star as Ramona and Burt in this immeasurably adorable flick about two young lovers expecting a little one and trying to find their place in the world before it comes. It starts off light-hearted and comical, just skimming the edge of sincerity and sentiment. But then, the couple says goodbye to their only set of would-be grandparents and has to stop the car on the side of the road to let out frustration. Is this the pivotal fight making it the drama it claims to be? Nope. Just a sigh and a deep thought from Verona before picking at Burt until his struggles to make her laugh win out and as the audience, we are left smitten for a truly candid couple, ignorant to the world's judgement and dependent on a positive wing of fate to lend their survival. Their love is a unique gesture--one often underestimated here in our real world. They're frank. They're quick about their frankness. And, they've got their entire life packed in a hatchback to take across the US in search of the site for their perfect home. It's a labyrinth from here--a scurry to visit all the places where either family or friends have once described the bliss found in that particular city. From Madison to Phoenix to Miami, their little journey runs them through kooky pastimes and even stranger people. They face sadness and disappointment, are reminded of old scars and end up facing each other, wondering if this is something, if this life is something, they are really cut out for. Writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vita bring us solid emotion as it plays out for the real people. Real fright and real issues standing in the way of happiness are put up against a kind of love unmoved by life's tragedies, and for sure not trivial consequences. They illustrate fine ordinary people moving about their way, but doing it with such an unspoken grace, one almost unrecognizable, that by the end you're gripped, hypnotized by the the tender relationship you're watching grow on screen. Believe me, I let the tears rain on this one. It catches you off guard, literally warms your heart and soul. Your emotional ups and downs are so deeply opposed that the overwhelming ride is one unfit for nonchalance. This is serious stuff, seriously good stuff. Don't miss it.