And Everything Is Going Fine
Details: 89 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: A documentary on the life of American actor, screenwriter, playwright and monologist Spalding Gray.
A moving tribute to a unique individual.
The life and mind of the enigmatic Spalding Gray, one of America’s most brilliant and confounding actors/comedians/monologists, is deconstructed by the man himself (with a little help from Steven Soderbergh) in And Everything is Going Fine, a portrait of an artist whose fleeting relationship with past and present realities fuels this dichotomous production. One is never sure whether the film documents the performer adding layers to his onstage alter-ego or is, in fact, exposing the performer himself; regardless, the film makes for a compelling 90 minutes in the company of a unique individual.
Unavoidably existing beneath a shroud of melancholy associated with Gray’s apparent suicide in 2004, Soderbergh’s film paints a picture of a man whose public persona defines the man himself – a blurring of celebrity and intimacy that makes for a volatile combination. Compiled from 90 hours of material collated from decades of filmed performances and in-depth interviews, Soderbergh pieces together a profound insight into Gray’s views on his own life, work and developing psychosis. In choosing not to accompany Gray’s words and image with a narrator or explanatory titling, the filmmaker has afforded the artist the most pure of platforms from which to speak – a perfectly respectful filmic recreation of Gray’s famous one-man performance pieces.
In these groundbreaking monologues, Gray would examine the melting pot of memory and misguided influence that conspired to create the increasingly troubled man he was becoming. The irony in the film’s title is that, from a very early age, everything did not go fine for Gray whose middle-American upbringing was one of zealous religiosity, matriarchal overbearance and ingrained issues regarding death, anxiety and guilt.
As Gray’s influence as an artist grows through the 1980s, Soderbergh’s film allows the man to explore his emotionally complex inner-self – an ego governed by narcissism, repressed homosexuality, self-worth determined via sexual enlightenment and unhealthy immersion in self-medication. These are the central themes of his most famous works – Swimming To Cambodia, Monster in a Box (a reference to his mother’s ashes) and Gray’s Anatomy – and Soderbergh’s precise editing and understanding of the man allows the viewer insight into the genesis of the creative process and the neurosis that drives it.
Working with Gray’s widow and children, Soderbergh was entrusted with this ‘bio-mentary’ having worked closely with Spalding Gray – in 1996, on a free-wheeling film adaption of Gray’s Anatomy and on the 1993 film King of the Hill, in which Gray was cast as a suicidal professor. A tangible emotional aspect and lovely quality of And Everything is Going Fine is that of a friend trying to understand the process that led to a loved-one’s suicide.
That Spalding Gray remains every bit the enigma by the film’s end as he was at the start in no way detracts from Soderbergh’s film. In his own words, Gray’s life and art were imperceptibly linked. “I often wonder if I spend too much time telling the story of my life and not enough time living it,” says Gray at one point. If he continually struggled with defining himself and his place in the world around him, Soderbergh captures that contradictory essence wonderfully. His film is a moving, insightful tribute to a brilliant American intellectual and eccentric.
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