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And Everything Is Going Fine

Movies2011-3-11By: Classical Staff

And Everything Is Going Fine
Steven Soderbergh, director
Starring: Spalding Gray

And Everything Is Going Fine

Never trust appearances. Despite his gaunt patrician look and dry New England diction and tone, the actor, writer and monologist Spalding Gray really was Woody Allen in flannel shirts. Both are self-obsessed storytellers who see humour and tragedy in the most important thing in the world: their lives.

While the more obviously neurotic–and Jewish–Allen is still making a couple of movies every year despite a declining reputation, Gray has suffered a far sadder fate. He was found drowned to death, an apparent suicide, after years of depression caused by the aftereffects of a severe car accident in Ireland.

Now, Steven Soderbergh has constructed an appropriate homage to Gray. And Everything Is Going Fine takes footage from Gray’s films, theatre pieces, home movies and TV interviews to create an autobiography of this witty, intelligent and engaging artist.

Beginning with his childhood in 1940s Rhode Island, which was hopelessly marred by the suicide of his Christian Scientist espousing Mother, Gray recounts his story in a lucid, precise and laconic style that often builds to emotional scenes of self-revelation. Gray became an actor in college but only began to achieve success when he co-founded the avant-garde Wooster Group in the 1970s.

His commercial breakthrough came in the mid-80s with Swimming to Cambodia, a great monologue that he developed after playing a supporting actor in the drama The Killing Fields. Moving effortlessly from telling stories about making the film to tales of his childhood, college days and early years in New York, Gray engaged the viewer in sad but funny ruminations about love, sex, war and passion.

After Swimming to Cambodia was a hit theatrical piece, a best selling book and a film directed by Jonathan Demme followed to great critical acclaim. Gray’s successful ride continued with the autobiographical works Sex and Death to Age 14, Monster in a Box and Gray’s Anatomy. Soderbergh directed Gray the actor in King of the Hill and the monologist in Gray’s Anatomy. This is clearly a personal project for the director, who often shares three takes on the same episode, recounted in different tones by Gray at various stages in his life.

I interviewed Spalding Gray in the early 1990s, when he was in Toronto on a book tour. He was a great interview, offering long, hilarious stories, with great relish and generosity. Soderbergh’s film charts the trajectory of his life from a shattered American Dream youth to success as an avant-gardist and beloved storyteller to intimations of suicide. It’s a trip worth taking: Spalding Gray is still a delightful character–wise, rueful and, yes, occasionally melancholic.


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