Last fall, scribegrrrl assessed some
of the most bizarre casting news ever, Drew Barrymore
as Little Edie in Grey Gardens. That’s the documentary-turned-musical
about the relatives of Jackie Kennedy whose lives, dreams, and house
decay in one of the most truly uncomfortable things I’ve ever seen.
I wholeheartedly agree: I don’t see Barrymore — whose on-screen presence
is brilliantly suited for cutesy-romantic and cutesy-badass roles —
playing Edith Beale without coming across as, well, just cutesy.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the crazy-making documentary-turned-musical,
here’s some perspective.
In a more comprehensible choice,
Jessica Lange, you might recall, is playing the mother.
Personally, I’m still trying to understand why we need a dramatized
version at all, when you can just rent the documentary. (That
is, if you feel like being depressed. Or are depressed, and want
to make yourself feel better by comparison.)
But Barrymore and Vogue have been working
to convince the skeptics
that she’s up for it and, in fact, grown-up enough for it. Among
other revelations, director Michael Sucsy recounts how Barrymore
hunted him down, making her case accompanied by an inches-thick binder
of her personal Little Edie collection. I do understand the fascination
with Edie, a S-T-A-U-N-C-H woman:
For her part, in the interview Barrymore
discusses the process of the film, from makeup to accent to mental
readiness. Since Edie has about two decades on Drew, it took five
hours of makeup, wigs, and prosthetics to transform her. She
also signed on for months of dialect coaching to master the speech cadences
of a Long Island debutant from the 1930s. This, she says, was
the hardest part for a Valley Girl: “In those days, there were
no R’s. I talk out
of the side of my mouth, and she talks from the back of her throat.
It’s really a different language.”
Then there was the mental makeover.
Barrymore gave up everything 21st-century — cell, computer,
and all — except for her treadmill:
“I have never been so cut
off from the world before, but I wanted to feel like I had only what
was right in front of me. I was really conscious of creating an
environment that I constantly wanted to get out of. There was a lot
of pain and frustration and lack of comfort. That’s who she [Edie] was.”
And Barrymore feels she learned lessons
about more than history or one woman’s life:
“Something about learning
you can live without everything changes you. All my life, I’ve been
waiting and waiting to become a woman, but I always felt like a little
girl. Edie did, too. But I think she might have been the thing that
made me finally become a woman. I thought for sure it would be a relationship
with another human being, a love. Little did I know it would be a posthumous
relationship with a woman named Edith Beale.”
Waiting to become a woman? Hey,
maybe that’s what Oprah
and Drew were talking about
the other day, when Oprah gushed that being selected to do a Vogue
was thrilling because “it’s some kind of validation; it says you’re
a real woman.” Huh? But kudos to Barrymore for donating
one million dollars to the World Food Programme.
I’m happy for Barrymore. She’s
pulling big salaries as an actress and producing commercially successful
movies, and it sounds like her time on this project was not easy.
But call me a cynic. This “coming-of-age” slant sort of makes
me a little queasy. Of course, that could be because of Vogue‘s
frequent gushing over Barrymore’s healthy new relationship, healthy
new perspective on life, and healthy new thin body. And it still
doesn’t convince me that she can play the role.
I’ll finish off here with an extended
clip from the original documentary. If you’ve never seen the film,
and you can make it through the first few minutes, see what you think.
Make me a liar, Drew. I really
hope you can pull it off.