And Everything Is Going Fine

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Editor: Susan Littenberg
Features: Spalding Gray
MPAA Rating: NR
Year of Release: 2010
Country: U.S.
And Everything Is Going Fine Criterion Collection Blu-Ray
And Everything Is Going FineSpalding Gray made his living talking about his own life, so it is only appropriate that And Everything Is Going Fine, Steven Soderbergh’s documentary about/tribute to the late actor/writer/monologuist, allows Gray to speak of his life and its significance entirely in his own words without any intrusive talking heads or academic pontification. For more than 30 years Gray kept New York theater audiences riveted as he told stories about his life accompanied by little more than a chair, a desk, a glass of water, and a notebook. He was a born storyteller, a gift that he honed into a finely tuned performative art that was all the more brilliant for appearing to be so casual, so personal, so tossed-off. Gray’s life was the material of his art (he once said “I like telling the story of my life more than I like living it”), and he transformed it on stage with a delivery style that made you feel like he was speaking only to you, even as you saw him turning his head to take in the whole audience.

And Everything Is Going Fine works in a similarly deceptive manner, obscuring the complexities of its design via a surface that seems decidedly simple and straightforward. Assembled entirely out of pre-existing footage of Gray’s various stage shows and interviews he gave over the years, as well as personal home video, it constructs a chronological recording of his life as he told it to others; thus, there is often temporal disparity between when the footage was initially recorded and what point in his life Gray is discussing in said footage, although the film begins appropriately enough with Gray sitting down to deliver his first monologue, Sex and Death to the Age 14 (which he originally delivered in 1979; the footage here is a recording from 1982). We get to see Gray at various stages of his life, where he is hair is shorter or longer, darker or grayer, and the non-chronological nature of his visual presentation gives the impression of jumping in and out of his lifespan as his anecdotes about neuroses, personal relationships, awkward sexual encounters, and battles with (and sometimes triumphs over) depression accumulate into a deeply personal autobiography.

Editor Susan Littenberg, whose first work was on Soderbergh’s film version of Gray’s stage show Gray’s Anatomy in 1996, worked for several years with the director whittling down some 90 hours of archival footage into a tight, streamlined 89-minute film that feels both expansive and intimate. The film creates a fascinating juxtaposition between Gray on-stage and Gray in one-on-one interviews, as Littenberg sometimes cuts among different recordings of him telling the same stories. The effect it gives is that Gray was always playing the role of “Spalding Gray,” which is not to say that he was necessarily putting on a front, but rather that he was always fully enmeshed in the narrative of his own life. Although he played roles in more than 40 films and numerous stage productions, he was never so good as when he was playing himself (in one interview he says he’s “an inverted Method actor, using myself to play myself”).

Not surprisingly, the film covers a wide range of emotions, from the hilarious (Gray describing his determinedness during a homosexual encounter), to the tragic (the story of how his father told him of his mother’s suicide), to the amusingly mundane. A significant portion of the film’s third act takes place after Gray suffered a debilitating car wreck in 2001 that left him with significant skull fractures and in a constant state of physical pain, although the film never references Gray’s suicide in 2004, a demise he always feared his mother had doomed him to. Instead, Soderbergh finds a perfectly pitched moment in one of Gray’s later interviews in which he drops all pretenses of being the subject of an interview as he listens to a wolf howling, perhaps hearing in that “lamentation” the unique and compelling mix of comedy and tragedy that defined most of his life.

And Everything Is Going Fine Criterion Collection Blu-Ray
And Everything Is Going Fine is also available from The Criterion Collection on DVD.
Aspect Ratio1.33:1
AudioEnglish Linear PCM 1.0 monaural
  • “Making of And Everything Is Going Fine” featurette
  • Sex and Death to the Age 14, Spalding Gray’s first monologue, created in 1979 and filmed in 1982
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Essay by writer Nell Casey
  • DistributorThe Criterion Collection
    Release DateJune 19, 2012

    Because And Everything Is Going Fine was assembled entirely from pre-existing video footage (most of which was NTSC videotape), it is impossible to say much about Criterion’s high-definition presentation of the film except to say that it is true to its source material. There is a great range of quality in the videorecordings, mostly adhering to a chronological improvement in video technology from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. The soundtrack, which is presented in Linear PCM monaural, is also at the mercy of the original recordings, and surprisingly enough it is very strong, as Gray was almost always speaking into a separate microphone, producing a clean recording of his memorable voice.
    “Making of And Everything Is Going Fine” is a 20-minute featurette in which director Steven Soderbergh, producer Kathie Russo, and editor Susan Littenberg discuss how the film came to be made (Soderbergh is particularly confessional in talking about the guilt he felt after dropping out of Gray’s life following his car wreck in 2001). Also on the disc is the entire recording of Sex and Death to the Age 14, Spalding Gray’s first monologue, which was filmed in 1982, and the original theatrical trailer.

    Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © The Criterion Collection

    Overall Rating: (3.5)

    James Kendrick

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