MRR Review: "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

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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.
2.5

Rating: NR
Length: 80 minutes
Release Date: April 19, 2013
Directed by: Chiemi Karasawa
Genre: Documentary

An insightful and inspiring look at the career of a renowned actress and cabaret legend, "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" follows the aging entertainer as she gets ready to perform in one of her captivating cabaret shows. This intimate film focuses on Stritch's determination to continue practicing her craft despite her advancing years. In addition to honing the songs and material for her act, Stritch must also deal with diabetes and her frequent memory lapses. Viewers remain engaged throughout the movie by Stritch's love of performing and the affection she has for her friends and colleagues. The film proceeds at a brisk pace, and the vitality Stritch displays for her craft keeps the viewers engrossed for the entire length of the movie.

Elaine Stritch is a veteran of Broadway and the cabaret circuit. She has many fans who admire her for her singing skills, acting talent and gift for telling stories about her career in show business. Although she never became a huge star, Stritch has been a visible and compelling presence in the entertainment world for more than seven decades.

Despite being in her late eighties at the time this documentary was filmed, Stritch's enthusiasm for her work comes across powerfully to the viewer. The actress is also painfully aware that her health problems will not allow her to perform much longer. This realization adds a note of poignancy that deepens the viewer's connection to the story and to Elaine.

The director, Chiemi Karasawa, tells Elaine Stritch's story with proven documentary techniques. She has the camera follow the actress as Stritch prepares for her upcoming cabaret show. Karasawa also shows Stritch interacting with her friends, many of whom are well-known show business personalities. These notable personalities include actors Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and John Turturro. Prominent Broadway producers Harold Prince and Geoffrey C. Wolfe are also shown talking with the actress.

In addition to showing Stritch interacting with her circle of friends and colleagues, the director also allows these acquaintances to speak directly to the camera. This technique permits the audience to listen to the warmth and affection in the voices of Stritch's friends as they talk about her and her craft. It is clear to the viewer that Elaine Stritch has a gift for friendship, in addition to her acting and singing abilities.

Her friends acknowledge that Stritch can be difficult to deal with at times. They suggest, however, that this is because of her perfectionism. She wants everything about her performance to be of the highest caliber.

Although the movie spends a considerable amount of time dealing with Stritch's professional accomplishments, it does not ignore her personal struggles. She has had a tough time in the past with alcohol problems, which the film acknowledges. The film also reveals to the viewer that Stritch has overcome this problem. The audience is profoundly affected by the determination the actress shows in successfully battling her personal demons.

The film deals with Stritch's health problems as well, the most prominent of which is her diabetes. This disorder requires the actress to keep a close watch on her blood sugar levels, and viewers are deeply moved by her willingness to continue performing despite the seriousness of her condition.

Despite all of her challenges, the indomitable spirit of Elaine Stritch is always present in the film. When she forget the lyrics to one of her songs, she does not seemed at all concerned. Stritch simply uses the occasion to ad-lib and create a unique moment between her cabaret audience and herself. Her use of humor to deal with any setbacks is one of the unique charms of this appealing performer.

The film focuses on Elaine Stritch as she deals with the problems and opportunities of the present, but does not ignore her past. The actress has had many successes in her career in the world of stage, film and television. These performances are referenced in archival footage. This technique lets the audience appreciate the complete history of one of the most fascinating performers of recent times.

Anyone with a love of acting and performing will do themselves a favor by catching a screening of "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. This affectionate look at the joys and tribulations of an extraordinarily gifted performer will appeal to an audience that appreciates the skills involved in creating a memorable live stage act. The movie's unflinching look at aging and how it affects everyone, no matter what field they pursue, also adds to the power of this brilliant documentary piece.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5