“Gray’s Anatomy” (1996) Review

Everything about Gray’s Anatomy, from its dull IMDB summary to its opening interview segments, made me believe that it was going to be a real slog, especially for someone with my film sensibilities. I was completely and utterly proven wrong. This was an interesting, engaging, and hilarious film.

Gray’s Anatomy is the story of Spalding Gray, an actor who finds out he has a rare eye condition that could cause permanent blindness in one of his eyes, and his journey to avoid the surgery that has more negatives than he is willing to accept. Again, this sounds like a fairly mundane plot but it triumphs in many ways despite the odds.

The first triumph of this monologue heavy film is the man at the center of it all, Spalding Gray. Gray is massively charismatic and brings an oddball charm to what might have otherwise been a very dull affair. He has a rare mastery over body language and language in general. Every movement he makes and every word he speaks is amazingly compelling.

The second triumph of the film are the effects contributed by director Stephen Soderbergh and his crew. It is actually hard to believe at times that Gray’s Anatomy is, for the most part, filmed in a single room. The effects and lighting that the crew added work to transport you to the place that Gray is so vividly describing. The lighting, background imagery, and intense colors transform the mundane room into a beautiful tableaux of the events that are being described.

The final triumph of this film is the story itself. Spalding Gray’s recollection of his quest to find an alternate cure for a severe eye problem is at times unbelievable. From his time spent in a Native American sweat lodge lead by a Wiccan girl to his attempts to be cured by a Phillipino psychic surgeon, each event seems more and more contrived. Despite this incredulity it was easy to believe every word he said due to his overall passion for the subject at hand.

All in all, this film was a massively welcomed surprise and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

(This review is part of a crossover between The Cinema Bros Podcast and A. J. Hakari and his blog CineSlice. Read his review of the film I suggested for him, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, here.)

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