And Everything Is Going Fine (Steven Soderbergh, 2010)

And Everything Is Going Fine (2010) is more created than directed by Steven Soderbergh. It consists entirely of footage from Spalding Gray’s previous monologues, interviews, and the occasional home movie, amounting to his final monologue. Gray’s performance art consisted of sitting at a table, alone, telling about some part of his life, perhaps playing music to go along with it or having pictures to accompany him. One of those, “Gray’s Anatomy,” was caught on film, also directed by Steven Soderbergh. At times, Gray would invite audience members on stage and he would hold private conversations with them in full of view of the public. Those happenings make up the entirety of this film.

There is no commentary on Gray’s life or work by anyone. It’s no surprise, then, that And Everything Is Going Fine feels like an extended TV special—much of it is. Luckily, Gray is a treat to watch, whether he’s telling a story or letting us know how and why he told a story. He has a knack for humor and finding order in the chaos of life in his telling of every story. It should not be a surprise that the film can be a bit disorienting at first; it makes our journey to enlightenment effective on yet another level.

Soderbergh is also looking for order in chaos, editing the footage together so that Gray the artist gives us his story chronological order. Soderbergh finds answers in Gray’s life and presents it in a way that suggests that Grey himself found the peace that he gives to the audience with his stories. But Gray the person does not appear to learn as quickly as Gray the artist. He appears older or younger, more tidy or more unkempt depending on when he did a particular monologue or interview. It’s a quiet reminder that even when you have the answers, there’s still some level of filtering through your own imagination that assures you that everything is truly going fine. By the end of the film, everything looks perfectly organized: Childhood, young adulthood, sex, fame, family, midlife crisis, middle age, and tragedy. The glories of hindsight make themselves apparent in the audio but less so in the visuals. It’s a cinematic juxtaposition that breathes posthumous life into what feels like the artist’s work, precisely as he would have wanted it, no talking heads or commentary necessary.

With this style, the film can avoid the subject of Gray’s suicide in 2004 and end with order and celebration, just as Gray’s monologues always did. There’s no place for chaos or sadness in this artist’s work. His life is not quite the revelation that he makes it out to be—understanding one’s “meaning of life,” as it is put at the end, cannot be told as effectively as it can be shown or experienced, but for working with what we are, it’s as moving as can be. And Everything Is Going Fine is guilty of running through a couple moments that would be more serviceable endings, moments that would have displayed more trust in the audience than the hand-holding that we get. Still, this work remains a heartfelt and effective ode to a unique artist, even if his life is not quite as universal and accessible as this undertaking makes it out to be.

Grade: B+


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