To be honest, I had no idea who Spalding Gray was before I saw this film and decided to give it a chance on the sole basis that it was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Born in 1941, Gray was an actor and writer who found his artistic niche in the confessional monologue. His subject matter was diverse, ranging from comical observations on life to darker themes of suicide and depression. Having read Gray’s book, Impossible Vacation, Soderbergh thought the monologist would be perfect for his 1993 film King of the Hill and cast him in the role of Mr Mungo, a man “ruled by regret”. Throughout his life Gray was forced to battle with the spectre of clinical depression, a condition shared by his mother who committed suicide at the age of 52. In 2004 he disappeared. His body was found on the banks of the East River the following March.
Pieced together from a series of clips and interviews, And Everything Is Going Fine – a film which owes its title to one of Gray’s greatest monologues – is Soderbergh’s homage to a man he considered as a friend. Fittingly, there are no retrospective interviews with family members or co-stars: it is Gray, and Gray alone who holds the audience’s attention for the 89 minute duration. His unique style of monologue lends itself particularly well to documentary filmmaking and Soderbergh deftly weaves segments together to form an engaging narrative of Gray’s life. The Oscar-winning director takes a humble backseat approach in this film and allows Gray’s talent to do the talking.
There is undoubtedly something haunting about Soderbergh’s latest project, not least the parallel he drew between Gray and Mr Mungo, a character who is eventually driven to suicide. In spite of this, the film is above all a heart-felt tribute to a man who talked about himself for a living, yet he did so in such a way that it was impossible to take your eyes off him. And Everything Is Going Fine serves as a record for a talent which should not be forgotten.