Drew Barrymore: “Edith Beale made me a woman”

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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

cover


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.