What can anyone possibly say about Spalding Gray that he didn’t articulate more eloquently himself? Gray devoted his career to unraveling the mysteries of his own tortured psyche before the pain he endured after a car crash became unbearable and he ended his life. In deference to Gray’s fabled eloquence and remarkable genius for introspection and rigorous self-examination, Steven Soderbergh, who collaborated with his subject on the performance film Gray’s Anatomy, turns And Everything Is Going Fine into what’s essentially a one-man show. Soderbergh follows Gray’s alternately sad and hilarious life story through performance footage, home movies, and clips of Gray being interviewed on everything from The Charlie Rose Show to MTV and E!
And Everything Is Going Fine sketches an impressionistic portrait of all of the seasons of its subject’s life, from his childhood as the son of a mentally ill mother and working-class father in Rhode Island to his early sexual experimentation, immersion in the world of experimental theater, and later fame as an actor and monologist. Gray proved a fearless and relentless invader of his own privacy; he held nothing back, especially the parts that might prove embarrassing to himself and his loved ones. For Gray, knowing himself on such a profound and intimate level proved both a gift and a curse. It afforded him enormous insight into his inner workings yet robbed him of the comfort of self-delusion.
The specter of death looms heavy over And Everything Is Going Fine and lends an almost unbearable air of bleak irony to sequences like the one where he asks an older woman whether she’d ever pondered suicide. Soderbergh loving, shattering valentine to his late friend and collaborator has an inherently tragic arc, but it’s ultimately a celebration of Gray’s irrepressible lust for life and bottomless curiosity about the strange and beautiful world around him. It does justice to a subject who made his life and death works of art.