In the IFC series premiere of Documentary Now!, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader star in "Sandy Passage," a parody of the seminal Maysles Brothers' 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens, which followed two reclusive women (relatives of Jackie Kennedy's) living in a dilapidated Hamptons mansion. As a brilliant beginning to the six-episode season --all of which is directed by Rhys Thomas-- "Sandy Passage" does not mock so much as it celebrates the film and the entire nonfiction genre with a light-hearted comical expression.
Bill Hader portrays Little Vivvy Van Kimpton (his take on the unique Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier, who became a style icon after Grey Gardens' release) with a clear essence of the role's inspiration molded by his own defined sense of humor. When you consider the fact that you're watching the Saturday Night Live veteran play a debutante-turned-spinster who fashions sweatpants into a headscarf, there's an immediate comedic quality to every line delivered in that masculine voice.
Fred Armisen brings a dark humor to the bed-ridden matriarch who blew her knee when chasing a squirrel. Big Vivvy is a hilarious epitome of the bickering mother. It's the unexpected role that Armisen was somehow born to play.
Paying tribute to the original with such iconic scene's as the American flag dance (which was the first scene Hader performed he revealed in a panel discussion earlier this week), the parody gives it a sense of dark comedy that's almost too obvious. "Nothing was improvised," Hader explained. "It was all in Seth Meyers' amazing script. He loses his mind if you go off script!"
Helen Mirren has a cameo as the faux series' cultured host. It's a hint of slapstick served with a nice bow.
Documentary Now! premieres August 20, 10 p.m. on IFC. Watch a clip below: