Film Review: And Everything Is Going FineAmalgam of clips (and nothing more) of the late comedic monologist Spalding Gray’s performances, TV interview appearances and home movies is strictly for his fans.
At least the filmmakers and IFC Films label this Spalding Gray homage a “tribute,” because calling And Everything Is Going Fine a documentary would be a bit of stretch. Steven Soderbergh’s salute, which boasts considerable rare footage, covers much of Gray’s life, beginning in 1940s Rhode Island as the offspring of flawed middle-class parents through his early stabs at stage acting; his celebrity-making years as a monologist getting downright confessional; his sporadic stints as a movie actor, writer and New York theatre performer, and his private life as a tortured son and engaged lover and parent. But there’s nary a title card to orient viewers to time and place in this ambling “Gray” area of a movie.
Filmgoers less familiar with this unique pop-culture phenomenon and less enamored of Gray’s droll, autobiographical forays into his dysfunctional family (a mentally ill Christian Scientist mother and bland, emotionally cold father), career false starts and highlights (work with New York’s Wooster Group, Swimming to Cambodia, Our Town on Broadway, etc.), sexual adventures (loss of virginity, a de rigueur flirt with homosexuality) and relationships (most notably with longtime companion Renee Shafransky and as father to his children) may not be charmed. For some, Gray’s unrelenting, self-referencing steams of consciousness and unwavering assurance that his observations of his life warrant so much attention may come across as cloying, narcissistic self-indulgence.
Even for documentary fans, this discursive film also ignores at least one key fact. No, everything isn’t going fine (the ironic title recalls the current All Good Things in this regard), although Gray’s terrible auto accident in Ireland and his occasional references to death will resonate with the cognoscenti. And, yes, Gray did commit suicide in 2004, although there’s no mention of it here. (Is this a new sub-genre—the denial doc?)
As a celebration of a gifted personality, Soderbergh’s film will still please Gray’s legions of admirers. And his unwavering conviction that the stuff—good and bad—of his real life must be shared and his unique talent to babble on about it may win him some new fans.
And Everything Is Going Fine serves as yet another reminder of how much Soderbergh, with cameras in both Hollywood and the indie world, stands apart from his peers. Here’s the “big studio director” who has fat features like a Liberace biopic and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on his schedule and Traffic, Erin Brockovich and the Ocean’s trilogy on his resumé, awkwardly sharing company with such indie oddities as Bubble, Full Frontal and Che. And now comes this rambling tribute to his collaborator on such projects as King of the Hill and Gray’s Anatomy. And Everything Is Going Fine is not much more than a slapped-together cinematic scrapbook, but it’s one whose disorganized pages Gray loyalists will want to turn.