rating: 4

Steven Soderbergh seems to remove himself entirely fromAnd Everything Is Going Fine, and I mean that as a good thing. It is a documentary solely focused on its subject matter, and seems to go to great pains not to allow distractions. It is noticeable perhaps for what it leaves out as much as what it includes. The subject matter is the writer, actor and speaker Spalding Gray, who died in 2004 from an apparent suicide, having struggled with depression his whole life. He is best remembered for his autobiographical monologues, some of which were recorded on video and which make up the bulk of this movie. The documentary consists of footage of these monologues, given on stage to his loyal and supportive following, intercut with some interview footage of Gray from TV etc. That€™s it. No after-the-fact analysis or interviews with those who knew him, no contextualising montages, no clever technical conceits. If you find Spalding Gray interesting, you will likely enjoy this documentary, and if you don€™t, you almost certainly won€™t. I do, and found the monologues contained here to be funny, interesting and occasionally touching. At one point he says that he basically needed his therapist to tell him what was private and what was personal because he kept getting in trouble after talking about his friends and family in front of audiences. In one particularly funny sequence he discusses how difficult he found making a porno the one time he tried that: he couldn€™t synchronise his erections with the other male star. At one point he describes the way he works as €˜creative narcissism.€™ That sounds about right to me: to talk so openly and extensively about yourself a certain degree of navel-gazing is required, but I also think a degree of insecurity and loneliness was involved. There was clearly a therapeutic element: he found that when he started discussing his life, many memories came back to him, and he struggles to separate the details he may have fictionalised from the way things actually occurred. In a way the process of taking his real life and moulding it into monologues and stories seemed to allow him to distance himself from the problems he was discussing, in the same way we can get over an embarrassing event that may have been mortifying at the time by simply joking about it later. Given the nature of the man, I think Soderbergh€™s minimalist approach is very fitting. It shows him as he showed himself, and allows us to fill in the blanks. There is a sense of voyeurism €“ less strong but similar to that found in Tarnation €“ and like that movie some people may tire of the subject€™s self-obsession. But Gray was a very good speaker, delivering breathless and evocative speeches that, at their best, are like listening to a great stand-up like Richard Pryor. It is curious that he felt he took so long to find what he wanted to do in life, as when he€™s on stage he just seems like a born storyteller, which may help explain the connection Soderbergh felt with him and the way he really gives the movie over to him. You almost feel like Gray is analysing himself along with you, leaning over your shoulder and saying, wow, would you look at this guy?
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I've been a film geek since childhood, and am yet to find a cure. Not an auteurist, but my favourite directors include Robert Altman, Ernst Lubitsch, Welles, Hitch and Kurosawa. I also love Powell & Pressburger movies, anything with Fred Astaire, Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn, the space-ballet of 2001, Ealing comedies, subversive genre cinema and that bit in The Producers with the fountain.