Master monologist Spalding Gray, a proven stage and part time screen actor, as well as the man behind such cinematic creations as Swimming To Cambodia, Monster In A Box, and Gray’s Anatomy, unfortunately perished in New York’s East River after a long and troubled bout with depression in 2004. Paying tribute to his friend and colleague, director Steven Soderbergh pieced together And Everything Is Going Fine, an autobiography of sorts, concocted of snippets from Gray’s many monologues, interviews, and home videos he left behind. A stirring, often funny film like this would never be possible to construct about most artists, but Gray’s unique creative expression was almost always an outpouring of personal experience, that when edited down to a single narrative, is basically his life’s story.
Like his light touch direction on Gray’s Anatomy, Soderbergh never interjects here. He allows Gray to tell his own story, mostly on stage behind his signature wooden desk. As he begins to speak, you are instantaneously put at ease by his seemingly relaxed charisma, but once the story begins, you begin to realize that this is a man who’s natural anxiety is being perpetuated by publicizing his many troubles. He speaks on his lack of talent as a child, his life changing first stage experiences, his clinically depressed mother, and his often times oblivious father. Though he does admit there are indeed boundaries of what can be public knowledge and what is personal, he confesses an abundance of dark reflections on his parents (specifically his mother’s suicide) and his own parenting (he got his girl on the side pregnant and refused to see his child for months after it was born), and goes into highly embarrassing detail on events from his travels (like when he decided to sexually experiment with a guy in a hotel room adjacent to his). To us, the line seems incredibly fuzzy, but it was apparently in place.
In the very few interviews included within, not able to prepare a witty scripted story, Gray seems much more conflicted about not only his profession, but his life as a whole. He nervously answers questions, and as his responses come to a close, the camera lingers on in silence, watching the man regretfully stew over his thoughts. For all the glorious entertainment he brought to the world, Spalding Gray seems a man ever tortured by regret. After his debilitating accident in which he lost the function of one leg, and withstood a substantial head injury, he promised to dissect the even for new material, but he never really made it that far. Though the film omits the final few pages of Gray’s tragic end, the truth about why he did what he did isn’t hard to see.
With such a mish-mash of materials making up this documentary, all efforts to try and readjust the looks of each were thrown out right from the start. Each element possesses different visual grain, aspect ratios, and general looks. This patchwork well held firmly together by Gray’s own voice, which was surprisingly well recorded across each format. His dialog is pumped through an uncompressed mono track that has been cleaned up and normalized for optimum understandability. The disc and booklet comes packaged in Criterion’s standard clear Blu-ray case.
Making And Everything Is Going Fine
Running just 21 minutes, Soderbergh, editor Susan Littenberg, and producer/Gray’s widow Kathie Russo speak in rotation about the massive process of whittling down the 90 hours of video footage they unearthed, as well as 20 years of Gray’s personal journals to sort through. Each of them give personal reflections on their relationship with the man, and how the film has affected them in classic talking head style.
Sex And Death To The Age 14
The opening shot may seem familiar, as it is the same shot that begins Soderbergh’s doc, but this is actually an entire performance of Gray’s first monologue as performed for a retrospective in 1982 at the Performing Garage in New York. Just over an hour in length, this is a perfect precursor to what was to come in the not so distant future. He speaks with the same relaxed charm, and perfect planning we’ve come to know and love. As the title alludes to, Gray speaks of his childhood experiences, and again some quite demented, some relatably normal.
Cramming a sample of every Gray’s every angle, this trailer does nearly a perfect job previewing what the film is about.
Within there is a collection of personal photos, a shot of Gray’s over stuffed journal, a breakdown of the film’s transfer process, film credits, and a lengthy essay by Nell Casey, the editor of The Journals of Spalding Gray.
Constructing one final posthumous monologue of Gray’s many previous performances, Soderbergh pieced together a honorable tribute to a man he had great respect for. Letting Gray tell his own story seems a little loosy goosy, but he strikes a beautiful balance of raucous hilarity and heartfelt reflection that make for quite a raw, honest revelation of a troubled, but brilliant performer.
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