"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" Review: Craig's First Take

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The uncompromising Tony and Emmy Award-winner is showcased both on and off stage via rare archival footage and intimate cinema vérité.
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The first time I ever saw Elaine Stritch was in a Norm MacDonald, Dave Chappelle movie called “Screwed”, one of those movies that seems to exist because its creators had nothing better to do at the time.

Chiemi Karasawa’s documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” wisely makes no mention of it but instead shows what an outspoken, funny, and genuine person the actress (best known for her role as Alec Baldwin’s mother on “30 Rock” but a theater darling, along with movies and TV) going back decades, really is.

Thankfully not one of those documentaries that starts from birth, Karasawa is more interested in following Stritch around, which is fantastic because she’s hilarious, filling us in on stories from the past or blasting a camera guy for getting too close to her face. All the while we can tell that she’s using this to sum up her life and career. The actress is about to turn 87, she doesn’t seem ready to hang it up yet (one of the stronger points this movie makes) but the idea of heading out of this life weighs heavily on her mind. Her times in and out of the hospital or at dinner with John Turturro are spent wondering what comes next, there’s a scary moment with her music producer Rob Bowman where she requests the need of her doctor, at times she says she’s as sharp as a tack but her words come out like gobbledy-gook, and there are times during rehearsals for her one woman show of singing Sondheim back in 2002 “Elaine Stritch at Liberty” where she can’t help but trip over her own words.

These are balanced out perfectly with scenes of a woman who will let you know if you’ve crossed her “bull&%#$ meter”, believes a woman should age gracefully, has some interesting stories about John F. Kennedy and Kirk Douglas, and proves to not only be a sharp performer, but also one still very dedicated to an audience’s enjoyment.

Maybe the most humanizing thing here though is the part that deals with her alcoholism; how she’s turned it into a driving force is really something. With interviews with James Gandolfini and Tina Fey among others (there’s also a nice bit where she and Tracy Morgan, both diabetics, check their blood sugar together), Karasawa’s film probably won’t convert many to suddenly take an interest in Stritch, but it’s a sometimes funny, sometimes insightful look at one of our longest-running entertainers.