Viddy Well Recommends: It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine.
It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. is a spiritual sequel to Crispin Hellion Glover’s debut, What Is It?, and it’s part 2 of what will eventually be a trilogy. Working from a script by Steven C. Stewart (who also stars in the film), Glover and co-director David Brothers (who also created the film’s sets) cultivate an incredibly powerful slice of experimental cinema that’s a fascinating blend of the autobiographical and the fantastical.
A surreal, semi-autobiographical, psycho-sexual tale about Paul (Steven C. Stewart), a man with severe cerebral palsy and a fetish for girls with long hair. Part horror film, part exploitation picture, and part documentary of a man who cannot express his sexuality in the way he desires (due to his physical condition), this fantastical and often humorous tale is told completely from Stewart’s actual point of view — that of someone who has lived for years watching people do things he will never be able to do.
FORWARD to movie by Steven C. Stewart (with original spelling):
“This movie is not really about sex or even a cereal killer. No. This movie tends to look deep inside the heart and mind of a severally handicapped young man. (A handicap starts out from birth. A disability happens later on in life). A very intelligent and ambitious 34-Year-old man who had to fight for everything all of his life. After finding the woman of his dreams, a woman he could really love, then to have that woman reject him was more than he could stand. It was enough too drive him over the edge.
This movie is to show that these people can have feelings too. Feelings of good and ill. And when circumstances become more than they can take they too can go over the edge.”
It Is Fine! is captivating pretty much immediately, and it maintains its spellbinding dazzlement for the entirety of its 74-minute runtime. It’s without a doubt the best of Glover’s two completed films simply because it has a rich emotionality and catharsis that is absent in What Is It? — a sentiment that Glover himself shares and acknowledges during the lengthy Q&A sessions that take place after every screening. However, more fascinating than the film, is Stewart’s real-life story.
Stewart, who suffered from an extreme case of cerebral palsy, was placed into a nursing home early in his life after his mother died. He endured a decade of mistreatment and psychological torment, which eventually inspired him to write the script for It Is Fine! after his release. As he mentions in the film’s forward above, he wanted to show that people with disabilities are capable of bad things, and he wanted to play the villain in his own story, which is an extremely interesting angle. In many respects, it seemed to be Stewart’s way to transcend the abuse, turning torment and anguish into a wonderfully confrontational piece of Art that challenges societal norms.
The film opens with a quote from Stewart that sets the tone and casually alludes to its intent. The quote is about Stewart being drawn to pretty popular girls — mainly to their long hair, a fixation that permeates the film — who ultimately shun him due to his condition. Structurally, the film is bookended by Paul (played by Stewart) in a nursing home, with everything in its midsection occurring as a deranged interior fantasy that is the inverse of his waking reality. Rich in irony and black humor, the interior fantasy transforms Paul, whose speech is indistinguishable about 90% of the time, into a Casanova, effortlessly swimming in a sea of women, who magically seem to understand his every inaudible word.
The fantasy begins innocently enough, but soon the tone progressively shifts to a more sadistic and sinister one, with periodic flashes of red that symbolize the dark thoughts and evils that lurk within Paul, embodying his interior angst and passion and foreshadowing the atrocious events that are about to occur. After a marriage proposal to Linda Barnes (Margit Carstensen) goes south, Paul sets out on a psycho-sexual killing spree, strangling any woman that belittles his condition or threatens to cut their long hair short. The violent acts that occur throughout the remainder of the film aren’t super graphic, but they get more and more explicit and perverted as the film wears on, climaxing in a shocking and unforgettable moment of exploitation.
The film’s construction and unfolding narrative pulls the viewer in interesting directions. On the one hand, you sympathize with Paul because of his condition and mistreatment, and on the other hand, you resent him for the vile and despicable acts he commits throughout. The title seems to suggest that everything that takes place in the film is fine, just as the typical Hollywood depiction of people with disabilities has been deemed as acceptable — and with minimal gripe or pushback. Honestly, the film’s portrayal of a character with severe disabilities in the role of the "bad guy” feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the sterility of the traditional corporately-funded and mainstream ideology.
Stewart’s script, which is written in the style of 70s made-for-TV murder mystery of the week, is brought to vibrant life with the surrealist flourishes of Glover and the magnificent sets created by David Brothers. Aside from Stewart’s bold screenplay, the set design was my favorite aspect. Brothers’ designs are minimal, yet striking, filled with bright saturated colors and an air of ornate sophistication. Inspired by the films of the 60s & 70s, they reminded me of the sets of Argento and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, which are equally simplistic and rich in texture. Glover’s directing style, like the sets, is also minimalist, favoring static compositions with little camera movement, yet it too remains stylistically distinct. I really loved his use of lighting to create shadow or to spotlight pieces of a set while leaving the rest of it veiled in darkness. There’s also an unmistakable theatrical quality to Glover’s presentation that makes the film’s savage violence somehow more playful, similar to what Kubrick does with A Clockwork Orange.
Really, It Is Fine! is a singular work, and I’ve not personally encountered anything quite like it before. Its ending is particularly noteworthy as it gives the film’s journey a powerful emotionality that lands with a devastating force. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s not to be missed either, and it’s only viewable via Glover’s touring show, which you can find more information about here.
Sadly, Stewart passed away a month after the film’s production concluded, so he never got to see a completed cut of the film; however, with Glover and Brother’s help, he will never be forgotten. I’m very glad that Stewart’s story is out there, and I applaud Glover and Brothers for bringing it to life.
Rating: 4.5 hair fetishes outta 5.
AFTERWARD to movie by Steven C. Stewart (with original spelling):
“Thank you for coming and watching this movie. By doing so you as my audience helped me accomplish what I have wanted to do, show that a person which a severe handicap and disabilities have feeling to and sometimes can go over the edge.
In 1937 when I was born people like this were kept in a back room, or placed in an institution and forgotten. If this movie had been shown at that time it would be sacrilegious. It was felt that these poor misfortunate people were sweet things without thoughts or feelings and could do no wrong. It wasn’t until twenty- five years ago that they started being accepted as human beings.
I have never killed anyone and never intend too. However, I have taken many intendances from my own life and built the story around them.
Thank you for being a participant.
Steven C. Stewart”
What do you think? Have you seen the film? Does it seem pertinent to your cinematic interests? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!