Don't let the title fool you. Despite bookending scenes in which photographer/artist Peter Beard reflects over old photos and some alluring footage about the innocent days when Montauk drew Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger rather than mere kabillionaires, That Summer could have more helpfully been called Before Grey Gardens or Hey, Look What We Found! The heart of the film, about an hour of its running time, consists of new-to-us footage of those perennial documentary favorites, the reclusive Edie Beales of the Maysles' Grey Gardens.
In 1972, Lee Radziwill schlepped from Southampton, New York, to East Hampton with the idea of making a documentary about the Long Island life of her and her family, including her sister, Jackie O; why not invite their "eccentric" Aunt Edie to participate, filming the scandalous squalor of her life, and maybe get her to sing a few songs? So, Radziwill, Beard and a film crew that included the Maysles brothers (Albert and David) entered the crumbling, overgrown, raccoon-infested mansion that would eventually become legend. The Bouvier-family documentary sputtered, and the Maysles never got access to the footage they shot in '72; recognizing a great story, they made Grey Gardens a year later.
Now, That Summer reveals four lost reels of Grey Gardens' inhabitants, "Big" Edie -- aunt to Radziwill and Jackie O -- and "Little" Edie, "Big" Edie's adult daughter. As happens in Grey Gardens, some moments pierce through the voyeuristic skeeviness of the project. Rather than just gaping at the spectacle of Hamptons royalty gone proudly to seed, here we're invited to ache with them, to consider whether the other options their lives offered would truly be better than their filthy yet comforting codependency.