Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Gray’s Anatomy

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, July 25, 1999

He’s very neurotic. I think he certainly takes things to extremes.

Special features

Cast Information3

Spalding Gray’s usual neuroses, focussed on the search for a cure for failing eyes. Or possibly failing eyes. Or failing nerve? From the storyteller who gave us “Swimming to Cambodia”, which you must see if you get the chance.

RecommendationRent Soon!
DirectorSteven Soderbergh
WriterSpalding Gray
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality6
Overall Rating5
  • Letterbox

This monologue is “based on” reality. “Although inspired by actual events, the characters and events depicted in the monologue portion of this motion picture have been fictionalized. Any similarity to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.” Some may say that last sentence was put in to please the lawyers, but I’m sure it was to assuage his significant other, who is mentioned often, and probably the doctors, who still may have another chance with a sharp knife at this eyeball.

The story is that Spalding Gray discovers he is having eye trouble in his left eye. He goes to doctors, searches out alternative therapies, and does whatever he can to save his sight.

On the surface this is much more superficial (how’s that for saying nothing?) than “Swimming to Cambodia”. Very little personal information, other than that he’s a neurotic mess, is obvious. He doesn’t talk about his failing love life (despite the legal disclaimer above, or perhaps because of it). He is very firmly focussed on fixing his eye’s “error” in any way possible: as long as it doesn’t involve painful, error-prone surgery.

The movie begins and ends with old video clips involving “eye education” and some sort of eye exam. Interspersed at various parts of the movie are interviews with people who have had eye problems or done crazy things to their eyes. One person doesn’t close her eyes while sleeping, resulting in dry, tearing (as in ripping) eyes. Another tried to pull a brake cable out of his eyes and tore it. And then had to fix the brakes before he could go to the doctor.

The background effects—the “backdrop”—is more active in “Gray’s Anatomy” than it was in “Swimming to Cambodia”. Some of the backdrops even look as they he is pasted over an outdoor scene, although usually this is the outside of a building. The camera plays with your perceptions to match the monologue. When he’s talking about blurred vision, the camera blurs. When the flashbulb flashes, the television whites out and fades back in. For the most part it’s still just Spalding Gray talking at the camera. It’s a concept that might not sound particularly appealing, but it is definitely worthwhile.

Spalding Gray is an extremely funny storyteller. If you haven’t seen “Swimming to Cambodia”, you should try very hard to do so. As I write this, however, “Gray’s Anatomy” is the only monologue available on DVD, and I strongly recommend it as well. It isn’t quite as funny as I recall “Cambodia” being, but that might just be because “Cambodia” was the first Gray monologue I’d seen. “Gray’s Anatomy” is definitely funny. For best results, watch it with friends.

I don’t know that I’d recommend purchasing the DVD: how many times can you watch a monologue? Beyond that, the DVD wasn’t put together particularly well. It does have the “Last Memo” feature enabled, but it is not in 16:9 enhanced widescreen. More annoying, their are only six chapter stops! They don’t even have a chapter stop for the credits. I had to choose the last chapter (“The Operation”) and then fast forward to get to the credits. In an 80 minute movie six chapter stops is just short of ridiculous and definitely touches on lame.

Note that this is the letterbox version. I see it listed at Amazon as 1.33:1 Full Screen, but it is definitely in widescreen, probably 1.85:1.

Whether you decide to purchase it or not, if you haven’t seen it yet definitely rent it, the sooner the better!

Recommendation: Rent Soon!

DirectorSteven Soderbergh
WriterSpalding Gray
ActorSpalding Gray
Spoken languageEnglish
Special FeaturesCast Information, Trailer
More links