Last night in New York at the premiere of HBO’s Grey Gardens – Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange taking centre stage promoting their roles as Big and Little Edie looking so much better than they did together at the Golden Globes, remember? Click here for a refresher.

If you’re wondering about Ms Lange’s face, it’s been like that for a while. This actually isn’t so bad.

As for Drew, from head to toe, total gorgessity, non? Sooooooooo beautiful. And check out that tricep! She’s in the shape of her life! I’ve never had finger rolls...never, ever, ever. Have always wanted to.

Grey Gardens premieres on HBO this Saturday at 8pm. In Canada, the original documentary by the Maysles Brothers will air immediately afterwards. Not sure if this is the case in America. If you have not seen the original, and EVERYTHING comes back to the original, please watch it first. Set the PVR for both, then go through in proper sequence.

Because it doesn’t matter without the original. If you don’t know the real Big and Little Edie, their Hollywood versions will mean nothing, which is why it’s rather worrisome – that a whole new generation won’t bother discovering the true inspiration, will walk away thinking they’ve just enjoyed a very glossy movie of the week.

And glossy it is.

The costumes... the costumes are stunning. But of course. Little Edie became a fashion icon living in a nasty ass old mansion with her crazy mother, several cats, and at least one Wonder-bread eating racoon. Styling therefore was a priority. And here the film succeeds. At one point Drew wears a cream coloured silk pantsuit with a hood and dances the night away. Magnificent. Every outfit is magnificent. Even her bathing suit. They should start selling those bathing suits again.

Beyond the fashion though, while Drew endearingly tried her best, to me I was watching Drew Barrymore acting like Little Edie. The accent it would come and go, the performance was rather uneven, and while her imitation of Edie’s infamous flag-waving dance in her black unitard was step for step almost perfect, that’s exactly what it was: an imitation. Because, ultimately, there really is only one Little Edie.

Big Edie is a different story. Jessica Lange’s kills it as Big Edie. Will factor large come Emmy and Golden Golden Globe season. Both of them will. And as a standalone, HBO’s Grey Gardens is thoroughly enjoyable. Especially the flashback sequences, probably because there’s no point of reference for it.

As soon as they get to the house though, even though they meticulously recreated everything, the feel... the feel just isn’t the same. It’s too obvious. All the knowledge gaps in between that truly punctuate the heartbreaking reality of what happened to the Beales, in filling in those knowledge gaps, it takes away the experience. How could two people who had everything end up sleeping next to rat sh-t and eating next to cat piss? What haunts you is the not knowing, what they don’t say but what they suggest, and in 90 short minutes, without much background information, what emerges from the original is far more powerful than HBO: without designer clothes, without special effects, without handholding, overinforming dialogue, just two women who loved and tortured each other for 50 years, living in isolation, but for six weeks in front of a camera, producing a film that gets more and relevant every year.

Please, please watch the original first. And then go back for Drew and co. It’s more fun that way too.

Grey Gardens – HBO Canada on Saturday April 18th at 8pm followed by the original (watch it first!) at 9:45pm.

Photos from and and