Thursday, June 21, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—And Everything Is Going Fine (2010) ***

NR, 89 min.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Spalding Gray

In college there were two performers that had an immeasurable influence on me. One was Sam Shepard, whom I looked like at the time but have been cursed not to look like anymore. The other was Spalding Gray. I was a theater arts performance major, and these were the two performers I latched on to. I suppose it makes sense each was also a writer.

In many ways, Gray was the heavier influence on me. By my junior year, I was starting to dabble in similar performance art to Gray’s autobiographical monologues. It was hard to find exposure to Gray, but in a case of serendipity, I was in school at about the time that his monologues reached their greatest popularity. It was right in the middle of a time period when four of his monologues were filmed for feature release, “Swimming to Cambodia” (1987), “Spalding Gray: Terrors of Pleasure” (1988), “Monster in a Box” (1992), and “Gray’s Anatomy” (1996). I saw all but “Terrors of Pleasure”. I read both “Swimming to Cambodia” and “Monster in a Box”. And, I began writing my own monologues.

I was lucky enough to see Gray live in Beaver Creek, Colorado in 1998 performing his skiing monologue “It’s a Slippery Slope”. I was saddened to hear of his apparent suicide in early 2004. I fear his final days were filled with both physical and emotional pain due to a car accident in 2001 and a lifelong struggle with depression. You don’t see that in his work though. He was one of those artists who bloomed when he was performing.

“And Everything is Going Fine” is a documentary about Gray’s entire life directed by Steven Soderbergh that compiles clips from his 19 monologues and interviews from throughout his career. Soderbergh directed Gray in the film “King of the Hill” and in Gray’s own monologue film “Gray’s Anatomy”. The images and words we see from Gray in this documentary are like a final monologue for this man who was willing to share his life with the world in a way that was not pretentious or self-serving… well, beyond the fact that he made a living from it.

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