Albert Maysles Marjorie Rosen - Essay

Marjorie Rosen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Grey Gardens"] is a film allowing us an extraordinary glimpse into [Edith and Edie Beale's] relationship, a glimpse which cuts as sharply as a machete to the core of a crippling human dependency.

Few films have spoken so poignantly about dependency, obligation, and guilt. About how a mother clips her daughter's wings in order to insure companionship and servitude in her own old age. About how a daughter masks fear of the adult world with familial duty….

With relentless gusto the camera records lunatic attitudes and awesome psychological paralysis, and with equal gusto mother and daughter perform before the camera as though they've been waiting in the wings for 25 years. This is their moment before the klieg lights. They give it their all. (p. 28)

The filmmakers are unsparing in documenting the weakness, selfishness, and true madness that feed the Beale women's monstrous relationship. While their relationship is one of extremes, I found it to be rich in the kinds of psychological truths that the screen rarely probes…. The dynamics of nurturing and punishing that Big and Little Edie replay for themselves daily may be disconcerting, hostile, even horrifying; but "Grey Gardens" deserves serious attention for the directness of these revelations. (p. 29)

Marjorie Rosen, "'Grey Gardens': A Documentary about Dependency," in Ms. (© 1976 Ms. Magazine Corp.), Vol. IV, No. 7, January, 1976, pp. 28-30.