Grey Gardens originally struck me as a thoroughly grotesque idea for a new musical, almost as low on the taste level as the ill-fated attempt, a few years back, to base a musical on the life and death of the suicidal actress Jean Seberg. I had not been a fan of the Maysles brothers’ original documentary, which seemed to me both exploitative and voyeuristic. It provided a glimpse into the pathetic lives of two former socialites, “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, members of the Bouvier family and near relations of Jacqueline Onassis, who at the time of filming (1974) had become bedraggled recluses living in the cat-infested ruins of their once grand East Hampton mansion. It took only ten minutes for the viewer to conclude that both women were incurably mentally ill, and then the filmmakers had nowhere to go with the subject and simply contented themselves with dwelling on the ladies’ degradation. ...

 

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