Cineaste Magazine has published a long, considered review of the new documentary by Stephen Soderbergh about Spalding Gray, And Everything Is Going Fine.
The film consists entirely of footage of Gray himself, either performing his monologues or being interviewed. The reviewer, David Sterrit, takes a positive view of the film overall, describing it at one point as “spellbinding,” but he complains that it gives an incoherent picture of Gray’s professional development; he goes on to conclude that the film:
thoughtfully raises an array of issues related to performance, theater, film, and language, and they would be all the more fascinating if Soderbergh went into them a bit more attentively. Then again, I might be ascribing too much seriousness to a documentary intended simply as a tribute to an admired colleague and companion. Viewing the picture from that angle, I salute Soderbergh for making an engaging, absorbing portrait that will spread the word about Gray’s unique achievements far beyond the following he built when he was alive. Beyond the personal interest this holds for me (Spalding was a friend for many years), keeping Gray’s name and accomplishments alive is vital at a time when artistic innovators start fading from public consciousness the moment they leave the media spotlight behind.
What Sterritt says rings true, although I should confess that I haven’t watched the whole film — I hosted a preview screening at my house with a small group of friends, and we found it so overwhelmingly intense that night, emotionally speaking, that we had to stop playback and choose a different film. We were each already feeling vulnerable for different personal reasons, and Gray, whose face was often nearly life-size on the screen, seemed to be with us right there in the small living room, absorbing us into his own maelstrom of obsessions and pushing us just a bit too forcefully, right then, into our own dark places. Reportedly Soderbergh, who for a time was close to Gray, felt the need to withdraw from the friendship out of fear that his own life and work would be completely overwhelmed by Gray’s personal intensity. In that case, the fact that we couldn’t actually finish watching it that particular night is actually a ringing tribute to how well Soderbergh has conveyed Gray’s personal and performative power. I am looking forward to watching the whole thing soon.