Parents' Guide to

Grey Gardens

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Tragicomic docu of aging eccentrics won't appeal to kids.

Movie PG 1976 100 minutes
Grey Gardens Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 13+

A compelling documentary that centers their humanity

Wow...a film like no other. A documentary that reveals instead of purports. Two women living within a heavy patriarchal structure that are withering away, but not without consequence. How does one encapsulate loneliness...a life lived in a An incredible feat to offer dignity to women refusing to be erased and continue to take up space.
age 14+

Grey Gardens and the Changing Landscape of Women's Roles in Society

This classic film is a great way to approach many subjects related to women in society. Begin by introducing the subject of Jacqueline Kennedy's influence on society as First Lady during Camelot through the film's protagonist Edie Bouvier Beale who was Jackie's older cousin. Discuss how she was essentially left behind in life as we see the consequences of her choices play out in the film. Discuss how she was expected and basically destined to trot a path much like Jackie's as the wife of a great successful American man and what led to her taking the path she did to end up the spinster reliving her glory days as a onetime Broadway hopeful during her Barbizon days as Body Beautiful Beale? . What choices did women have for their life path during the era of Edie's youth in the 1930s? How did that change for Jackie's generation and how is it even different for today's girls? How would Little Edie's life have possibly been different if she was growing up today? Discuss Big Edie's trajectory and her life choices that caused her to become a banished black sheep living out her days in squalor at Grey Gardens? She wanted to be a singer which was unheard of for wealthy women of her ilk in the 1930s. Discuss the cycle of poverty that began with Big Edie's choice to ignore what society, including her husband and father expected her to do in order to remain in good financial standing. Cut off from basic necessities, she was the martyr for artists waging war against the bureaucrats, as she described herself and Edie. How did the ladies suffer for being who they wanted to be? Was it worth it? Why or why not? How can they be used as positive role models for individuals stepping out of convention to follow their own drum? Should Would Little Edie have been better off if she had married well like Jackie? Would Big Edie have fared better if she had been less flamboyant to appease her father and husband? What do you think about the way women's identities were as extensions of their husbands? How has modern society changed regarding women's roles in the era since Edie's youth in 1930s,-- Jackie's heyday in 1960s, through the production of the film in early 1970s? Discuss.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (2):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This is a brilliant, tragicomic documentary. Early in GREY GARDENS, "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale tells the camera, "It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present." Much of the rest of the movie takes this quote and runs with it. After living together in near-seclusion for over 20 years (the reasons why they live together and continue to live together are never specified, but it becomes obvious they have nowhere else to go, in spite of Little Edie's yearning to leave), this mother and daughter are often seen in their shared bedroom rehashing past events, opening up old resentments, disagreeing about central facts to their stories, as cats and raccoons have free rein in the rest of their crumbling mansion.

And yet, in spite of the specific circumstances, Grey Gardens raises provocative and universal questions about mental illness, how eccentricity is perceived by society, and aging. In less gifted hands, the obvious problems of Big and Little Edie would have been exploited and abused for cheap laughter, but with the Maysles Brothers, what emerges is a three-dimensional portrait of two women forced by their own peculiar circumstances to create a reality that is as much pictures in scrapbooks as it is a rundown mansion.

Movie Details

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