Hot Docs 2010: And Everything Is Going Fine
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
It’s strange, the effect stories have when you know that they are true. They feel more immediate. That’s the power of non-fiction: the images are somehow more vivid, the blood somehow wetter. There is no disbelief in need of suspension. These things happened. They exist.
It goes without saying that the monologues in Stever Soderbergh’s And Everything Is Going Fine – all conceived and performed by the late actor, playwright, screenwriter and performance artist Spalding Gray – lack the power of immediacy they would’ve had were you in the theatre with him. It is as spare a documentary as you’re likely to find: made up almost entirely of interviews and filmed performances of Gray’s minimalist one-man shows, his is the only voice you hear in the whole film and his only subject is himself. He is an uncomfortably honest autobiographer. Even as a shadow on film, Gray’s presence is captivating. I confess I knew nothing about the man when I walked into the packed theatre, but I left convinced that his death deprived the world of an artful and empathetic storyteller.
Like all good stories, Gray’s life can only be described as funny and tragic. His mother killed herself when he was twenty-six. In 2001, he suffered a broken hip and a fractured skull in a car crash that was the primary cause of his last bout of a lifelong depression. In the spring of 2004, at the age of 62, his body was discovered floating in the East River in New York, an apparent suicide. Ok, maybe that leans more towards ‘tragic’. But his stories are funny, and that, unfortunately, isn’t really something I can do justice to in this review. The funniness lies in Gray’s performance, a neurotic, manic humanity. We may no longer be able to experience that humanity in the flesh, but this doc is a good place to get a glimpse of it.
– Lena Duong