December 10, 2010
Steven Soderbergh and Spalding Gray
Somehow I had never seen any of Spalding Gray's stuff, never seen him interviewed, or seen him in a single movie (except, I guess, for How High.) Until today, when I saw Steven Soderbergh's new movie And Everything Is Going Fine, which is a good introduction to Spalding Gray, because there's nothing in it at all except for Spalding Gray.
It's such a fantastic introduction, in fact, that now I feel like I fell in love with someone and then lost them forever in the space of an hour and a half.
I suppose the movie is technically a Soderbergh documentary, but there's nothing in it that identifies Soderbergh at all. Considering Gray made a career out of talking about himself and his own experiences, it's fitting that a documentary about him is constructed solely of clips of Gray, talking about himself, and a few people he interviewed on stage during his shows. There's great stuff that goes beyond his funny and intimate monologues, like TV interviews that range from what you'd expect from a serious New York art scene kind of celebrity (Charlie Rose) to those that made me realize how mainstream-famous he actually was (MTV).
Nathan Rabin at The A.V. Club starts his review by saying, "What can anyone possibly say about Spalding Gray that he didn't articulate more eloquently himself?" Soderbergh takes the same approach. He constructed the movie like a posthumous autobiography, and it's only through an interview in the Times from earlier this year that I would have known anything about his own relationship to Gray. Talking about how he avoided Gray for the last three years of his life, Soderbergh says, "I was totally absent in a way that is inexcusable to me. And this entire movie is in part an act of contrition. The irony is that I spent the better part of three years immersed in something I tried to avoid."
If there's any sense of Soderbergh's presence in the movie, it's that feeling of regret. I hardly knew anything about him and his work when he was alive, and now I can't believe it's over already.
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