I’ve never seen Spalding Gray speak in person, but watching his filmed monologues has always seemed like an intimate enough experience, one that has left me feeling like I got to know more about this enigmatic storyteller than one should about a stranger. Watching Spalding Gray weave his tales is undeniably intimate, which is why Steven Soderbergh’s portrait of his friend and collaborator works so well.
Soderbergh started working on the doc almost immediately after Gray’s death – about five years ago – and put it together from hundreds of hours of footage of his monologues and various taped interviews. He lets Gray speak for himself, lovingly crafting what is ultimately his true final monologue. Soderbergh is a facilitator here, not really a director, never inserting his own voice into the story. The film is all the more compelling because of it.
Carefully chosen clips of Gray talking about his mother’s suicide, his own breakdowns and suicidal fantasies, and his obsession with water, all have a disturbing effect of foreshadowing his own death, by his own hand, in the East River. What emerges is the portrait of an incredibly self-aware and conflicted man whose tumultuous, brilliant and painful life was full of personal struggles and insurmountable inner demons. Portraits of troubled creative types are a dime a dozen, but a view as honest and personal as this one into the heart of a real artist is rare, and lovely.
In addition to providing a final glimpse deep into the heart of Spalding Gray, the man, And Everything is Going Fine provides a precious view of him as an artist, stringing together his own thoughts about his creative process over the decades of his career into a revealing picture of how his signature style was developed.
Definite must-see for fans of Spalding Gray, and a pretty compelling intro to his work for those who don’t know it already. And really, if you don’t know his work, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rent Gray’s Anatomy , the 1996 Soderbergh/Gray collaboration, a monologue about his eye condition (much more compelling than that sounds, I promise).
Check the Hot Docs schedule for more info and possible repeat screenings of And Everything is Going Fine.