Before the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens that focussed on the lives of the highly eccentric mother and daughter duo, “Big” and “Little” Edie Bouvier Beale (the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy), there was a previously abandoned project that attempted to capture the pair. Director Göran Olsson re-compiles newly found footage that has been lost for decades (some of which was shot by Andy Warhol) of the summer of 1972 to bring us back to the Beales’ household in the Hamptons in his captivating film.
Highly entertaining throughout, That Summer is a fascinating trip into the lives of this peculiar mother and daughter, told within the rundown house they never leave. Whether it’s their constant bickering, odd mannerisms or fearlessness to speak their minds, the Edies are utterly delightful and twice as enthralling to spend the film’s runtime with. Captured through raw footage, this ultimate behind-the-scenes documentary offers an unparalleled glimpse into the women’s own unique microcosm, constructed of memories of a time that once was.
Moreover, American artists Peter Beard and Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jackie O, who were involved in the making of the abandoned film, give their perspective on their time with the Beales. These moments of thoughtful retrospection that occasionally punctuate the work add an extra layer of humanity that demonstrates just how much of an impact their experiences with these women had on their lives. Likewise, That Summer provides viewers with a wide-enough snapshot of such moments to understand why these memories mean so much to them both.
Whilst the vast majority of Olsson’s film is spent with the Edies, the work is bookended by prolonged sequences with Beard in the present day looking through his art, which, in respect to the rest of That Summer, feels somewhat out of place. Although these moments aim to provide context to his project, they are nevertheless disconnected with the core of the documentary. This is especially true of the final scene, which ultimately detracts from an otherwise perfect conclusion to our time with these women.
Despite its shaky ending, That Summer is a fascinating encounter with two even more beguiling characters. Viewers don’t need to have seen Grey Gardens to appreciate this picture, but after seeing it they’ll most likely want to spend more time with the Beales.
That Summer is released in select cinemas on 1st June 2018.
Watch the trailer for That Summer here: