Grey Gardens (2009 film)

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Grey Gardens
Written byMichael Sucsy
Patricia Rozema
Directed byMichael Sucsy
StarringDrew Barrymore
Jessica Lange
Jeanne Tripplehorn
Malcolm Gets
Daniel Baldwin
Ken Howard
Arye Gross
Justin Louis
Theme music composerRachel Portman
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Lucy Barzun Donnelly
Rachael Horovitz
Albert Maysles
David Coatsworth
Michael Sucsy
CinematographyMike Eley
Editor(s)Alan Heim
Lee Percy
Running time104 minutes
Production company(s)Locomotive Films
Flower Films
DistributorHBO Films
Budget$12 million[1]
Original networkHBO
Original releaseApril 18, 2009 (2009-04-18)

Grey Gardens is a 2009 American made-for-television biographical drama film about the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale/"Little Edie", played by Drew Barrymore, and her mother Edith Ewing Bouvier/"Big Edie", played by Jessica Lange. Co-stars include Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Kennedy (Little Edie's cousin) and Ken Howard as Phelan Beale (Little Edie's father). The film, directed by Michael Sucsy and co-written by Sucsy and Patricia Rozema, flashes back and forth between various events and dates ranging from Little Edie as a young débutante in 1936 moving with her mother to their Grey Gardens estate through the filming and premiere of the actual 1975 documentary Grey Gardens.

Filming for the HBO film began on October 22, 2007 in The Hamptons.[2] It first aired on HBO on April 18, 2009.

The film won the 2009 Television Critics Association award for Outstanding Achievement Movies, Miniseries, and Specials. It was also nominated for 17 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie (Lange) and Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Howard). It was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Made for Television Movie and Best Actress in a Made for Television Movie (Barrymore). Lange was also nominated in this category.


The film is based on the life stories of the eccentric paternal aunt and first cousin of Jackie Kennedy, both named Edith Bouvier Beale. The elder Edith Bouvier Beale was the sister of Jackie Kennedy's father John Vernou Bouvier III and was referred to as "Big Edie", her daughter was referred to as "Little Edie". The Beale women were members of NYC high society, but in their later years, withdrew from the New York City life, taking shelter at their Long Island summer home/estate Grey Gardens. The house eventually fell into a state of disrepair that gave the Beale women notoriety.

Phelan Beale (husband of "Big Edie" and father of "Little Edie"), eventually divorced "Big Edie." In the movie, "Little Edie" decides to move to New York to pursue a career in acting (as well as an ill-fated romance with high-profile married man, Julius 'Cap' Krug). Her father frankly tells her that she has to find a husband to support her lifestyle. "Little Edie" sadly and slowly realizes her fate is to remain her mother's companion at Grey Gardens. The two women become reclusive and known around town as the highly eccentric proprietors of Grey Gardens, which has become decrepit and full of stray animals taken in by the Beale women. The plot includes the filming of the documentary Grey Gardens by Albert and David Maysles as well as flashback events in the Beales' past, including their arrival at the estate, the disintegration of Big Edie's marriage, and Little Edie's failed attempts to have her own life and find independence.

After Phelan Beale dies, the two sons tell their mother, Big Edie, that there is little money and she should sell the estate and move to Florida. The house was in her name and this was her home. She was going nowhere. Grey Gardens became a health hazard, over run with cats and also infested with raccoons. Health officials condemned the home and newspaper articles ran blaming Jackie Kennedy. Jackie goes to the home in a chauffeur driven limousine for a visit. Jackie and her sister, Lee, pay for the cleanup and restoration of the Hampton's home. Mom and daughter grow old together. The documentary is finished and Little Edie attends the premiere, wearing a surprise gift from her mother.

The movie ends with Little Edie singing "Tea for Two" at the Reno Sweeney cabaret in Greenwich Village, and the quote, "My mother gave me a truly priceless life."



Michael Sucsy said that he used primary sources to flesh out the story including letters and journals kept by Little Edie. He also interviewed family members and friends including Lois Wright who lived in the house and wrote her own book about the events.[3] Albert Maysles is credited as a source in the movie. Sucsy said that the house facade as well as the interior were created from blueprints. Sucsy said that an aerial shot of the house circa 1936 was historically accurate on the placement of the house in relation to other mansions in East Hampton at the time (although requiring CGI enhancements to create the illusion).[4] As with many movies based on historical events, some events in the Beales' lives, such as the timing of Big Edie and Phelan's divorce, were shifted to make a more coherent story.

The entire film was shot in Ontario, with most of the shots in metropolitan Toronto. The Valley Halla Estate in Rouge Park was the setting of exterior shots of Grey Gardens. Waterfront shots were on Centre Island in the Toronto Islands. Hotel shots were at the Fairmont Royal York. Studio work was done at Toronto Film Studios.[5]

The aerial shot of The Pierre was licensed from An Affair to Remember.[4]

Post-production was done in New York and Los Angeles. The DVD commentary was done in the same studio where the Maysles mixed the original documentary.[4]


Critical response[edit]

The movie has been lauded by many critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% out of 10 professional critics gave the film a positive review.[6] Ben Lyons from At the Movies raved: "Drew Barrymore is fantastic in this film." Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers also raved: "The script hits a few bumps, but Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore are magnificent as the bizarro Beales. Barrymore is a revelation. Aging into her 60s and transformed in voice and bearing, she finds Edie's unquenchable spirit. Brava."

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film received a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, while Drew Barrymore received a Golden Globe for her role as Little Edie. Jessica Lange was also nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as Big Edie.

Drew Barrymore received a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for her role as Little Edie. Jessica Lange was also nominated in the same category.

The film won the 2009 Television Critics Association award for Outstanding Achievement Movies, Miniseries, and Specials.

The film's 17 Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 2009 for the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, including three for Sucsy, tied the all-time nomination record for Outstanding Made for Television Movies:

As well as:

  • Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or a Movie (Won)
  • Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special
  • Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie
  • Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special
  • Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or Movie (Won)
  • Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)
  • Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie, or Special (Won)
  • Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie
  • Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or Movie


Grey Gardens: Music composed by Rachel Portman
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
  • May 5, 2009 (2009-05-05) (US)
  • June 2, 2009 (2009-06-02) (Overseas)
ProducerStewart Lerman

The Academy Award-winning composer Rachel Portman provided the film score. In addition to Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, the album includes vocal performances by the movie's lead actresses, Jessica Lange (on "We Belong Together" and "I Won't Dance" sung with Malcolm Gets) and Drew Barrymore (on "Tea for Two").

Track list[edit]

No.TitleFeatured artistLength
1."Virginia Military Institute Song"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:00
2."Little Edie on Chair"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra2:45
3."Love Is Divine"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:21
4."Edie Come Home"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra2:23
5."Cements the Deal"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:14
6."Nobody Stuck Anybody Anywhere"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra2:14
7."Wedding Jewels"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra3:26
8."I Might Have"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:23
9."Extraordinary Determination"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:11
10."Your Father's Died"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra0:57
11."Feet First"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra2:52
12."Invite You In for Tea"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra2:45
13."She Was Gorgeous"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:40
14."We Belong Together"Jessica Lange & Malcolm Gets1:08
15."I Won't Dance"Jessica Lange & Malcolm Gets1:14
16."We Belong Together"Jessica Lange1:41
17."Young Edie in NYC"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra0:38
18."Raid"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:57
19."This Will Be Better"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra2:30
20."All the Luck in the World"/"Love Is Divine"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra2:11
21."Trust Has Run Out"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra1:13
22."Long Leash"Prague Philharmonic Orchestra0:54
23."Tea for Two"Drew Barrymore1:29
Total length:39:36

Additional credits[edit]

  • Jeff Atmajian – orchestrator
  • Stephanie Diaz-Matos – music supervisor
  • Chris Dibble – scoring mixer
  • Jim Dunbar – music supervisor
  • James Fitzpatrick – orchestra contractor (Tadlow Music)
  • Bob Garrett – singing coach (Lange & Barrymore)
  • Simon Haram – musician (soprano sax)
  • Jan Holzner – assistant scoring engineer
  • Alex Hustoles – musician (clarinet)
  • Evyen J. Klean – music consultant
  • Jaromir Klepac – musician: piano
  • Stewart Lerman – music mixer, music producer (on-screen songs)
  • Petr Matejak – concert master
  • Yann McCullough – auricle operator
  • Randall Poster – music supervisor
  • Jennifer Reeve – music coordinator
  • George Seara – recordist (on-screen songs)
  • Jiri Simunek – music preparation
  • David Snell – conductor
  • Erich Stratmann – music editor
  • Stanja Vomockava – music translator
  • Chris Cozens – auricle control systems (uncredited)
  • Philip Tallman – music editor (uncredited)
  • Youki Yamamoto – music associate (uncredited)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Grey Gardens (2009) > Details > Box Office". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
  2. ^ Felming, Michael (2006-02-21). "Thesps tend to 'Gardens'". Variety.
  3. ^ Lois Wright, My Life at Grey Gardens
  4. ^ a b c Grey Gardens DVD – 2009 – HBO – Audio commentary with executive producers Michael Sucsy, Lucy Barzun Donnelly and Rachael Horovitz
  5. ^ "Grey Gardens (TV Movie 2009)" – via
  6. ^ Grey Gardens. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 5 July 2012.

External links[edit]