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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this drama follows the sad tale of a co-dependent mother and daughter living in squalor in 1970s Hamptons, and the decades leading up to it. Though there’s no violence or nudity, it’s sometimes painful to watch, especially knowing it’s based on real people. Though it’s rated PG, its tragic themes may not appeal to tween audiences and younger.
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What's the story?
Documentary film buffs sing praises of Albert and David Maysles’ 1975 masterpiece about two of the most fascinating and eccentric creatures to grace the Hamptons. This HBO feature reimagines it with Drew Barrymore as Little Edie and Jessica Lange as her mother, Big Edie, and shows them decades before and soon after the Maysles discovered them in their decaying mansion. Little Edie longs to stay in New York and be an actress, but her mother’s pull is far too strong, and so she returns to the East End to make real the fate that awaits her.
Is it any good?
It is tough to top the intrigue and charisma of the real-life Edies, but Barrymore and Lange give it their best shot. Lange is especially appealing when she croons, as Big Edie was wont to do at parties before she turned recluse. The contrast before and after is heartbreakingly stark. Barrymore captures Little Edie’s peculiarities, especially in the later years, and exhibits pathos we rarely see from her. But her accent: off-base. The two of them together, however, are a force.
More pluses: The costumes are gorgeous without appearing too costume-y -- the dresses are especially yummy -- and, notwithstanding the Beales’ decaying mansion later in the film, the Hamptons have never looked more beautiful. Scenes that mimic the Maysles’ footage are amazing near-facsimiles. But, and this is a considerable but: What made the Maysles’ film so powerful is the way it peeled off Big and Little Edie’s layers so that as each stratum fell, our sense of wonder and horror crescendoed to a deafening awe. Here, anger that fossilized into despair and near-madness -- the house they lived in was cat- and raccoon-filled and decrepit -- is reduced to folly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about this film and the idea that it was based on a real-life documentary: Why would the Beales agree to participate? Why did they make good subjects?
Discuss the mother-daughter relationship. Why the push-pull? Did they love or loathe each other in the end, or both?
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