Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dysfunction Junction

Somehow I managed to see 3 movies this weekend and they were all about supposedly dysfunctional families: The Savages, The House of Yes and Grey Gardens.

I loved The Savages and my sister hated it (you can see/read our respective reviews for details). She thought it was indie lite and I thought it was sad, real and understated.

It reminded me of my trip to Iowa to watch my shriveled, hairless grandpa dying. My father and grandmother and I spent a lot of time around his bedside but nothing of importance was said. In fact, we hardly said anything. And when he did die, it was a day like any other.

This is the plot of The Savages. As Americans move farther away from their families, community ties loosen and we all become more isolated, resulting in this sort of sad, emotionless scene when the time to die grows near. Are we human underneath it all or have we become savages?

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost poem quoted by Little Edie

What is it about intellectuals, artists and dreamers that makes us so prone to isolation and unhappiness? Do you have to be dumb to lead a happy, healthy, normal well-adjusted life?

Or is it like the normal-girl Lesly points out in The House of Yes, are all these angst-y loners just spoiled and BORED?

Lesly: I don't think you're insane.
Jackie-O: You don't?
Lesly: No.
Jackie-O: You don't think I'm an eensie weensie bit insane?
Lesly: I don't think you're insane. I think you're just spoiled.
Jackie-O: [exasperated] Oh please, if everyone around here is going to start telling the truth, I'm going to bed.
Parker Posey steals this film as Jackie-O. It is adapted from a play and has always been one of my favorite movies. After watching Grey Gardens I realized there are strong parallels between them. Familial ties that bind, and sometimes constrict, in ways that are awful but also comforting.

Jackie-O: I watch soap operas. I bake brownies. Normalcy is coursing through my veins.

Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale: 'Course, I'm mad about animals, but raccoons and cats become a little bit boring. I mean, for too long a time.
This film is disturbing on many levels. Maybe because I can relate to it, maybe because I have a solid streak of Little Edie festering inside me and maybe because their lives do not seem all that terrible to me. Sure, I could do without the kitty pee, the flies and the madness but the dancing, singing and complex squabbling is rather nice. At least it stays interesting!

And why is it that Little Edie can run circles around every one in this movie except her fast-talking mother? Because normal sane people are a bit dull and Edie is just one big burning ball of intense life force and unrequited passions.

Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale: But you see in dealing with me, the relatives didn't know that they were dealing with a staunch character and I tell you if there's anything worse than dealing with a staunch woman... S-T-A-U-N-C-H. There's nothing worse, I'm telling you. They don't weaken, no matter what.

It makes me glad that she tried a night club career in her 60s, even if she failed. It makes me sad that she died alone and was not found for 5 days. But people loved her, thousands of people still do. Maybe lots of people have a little dash of Little Edie and a penchant for creative headgear. Maybe that is why she struck such a chord.

Being eccentric and flashy is en vogue these days. Witness this disturbing Bazaar spread with Mary-Kate Olsen and Lauren Hutton playing the Beales. Voila, CRAZY becomes GLAMOROUS! EEK!

I am looking forward to the movie musical coming out this year and starring Drew Barrymore! I think Little Edie would be glad about her return to fashion. She would probably staple together a colorful outfit and prance around with an American flag to celebrate.

Little Edie


moshix2/aka: sachie said...

Hai Eva!! You are so lucky to see all 3 movies!! Man your post made me want to go to see those movies!! SAVAGES looks really good...I lov Indie movies!!

Salty Miss Jill said...

Two of my favorite movies ever!
Little Edie is a personal hero...she had no time and di things just how she liked. Insane really is in the eye of the beholder.

Undead Molly said...

Humans tend to resist change. When something is comfortable and familiar it can be terrifying to consider alteration. To me, Grey Gardens is about the most extreme example of what happens to those who follow through on the impulse to cling to homeostasis. It is the conclusion - comforting, scary, glorious, grotesque, beautiful, heartbreaking.... Depending on my mood it can appear truly heavenly or genuinely hellish.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

OOf, yes, well put. Grey Gardens fills me with hope and beauty and also leaves me feeling suffocated and sooo sad.

Lil Edie's life is like this perfectly preserved little gem - someone who never got sullied by the world and remained carefully locked away - and she went a little mad because of it me thinks.

Give me change, the outside world and scary messy life any old day...but also give me some locked away time to rest, lick my wounds and prepare for my next journey outside.

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Ms. Olsen and Ms. Hutton are so unworthy of the Beale tradition which was about invention and creation not imitation.