Elaine Stritch has been in the show business game for longer than many people have been alive. Born in 1925, she burst onto the scene in the 1940s. Before turning 89, after 71 years in New York Stritch announced that she was moving back to Michigan and stepping away from the spotlight. However, even as the incomparable, husky-voiced actress has given her final bow, an intimate portrait of the time leading up to that decision has emerged in the form of an honest and absorbing documentary: “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me”. The film, which opens in additional theaters on March 14, follows Stritch on as she lives and performs on the brink of her 87th birthday.
Through a combination of new and archival footage and interviews with her friends––including no lesser figures than Nathan Lane, John Tuturro, James Gandolfini, Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey––debut director Chiemi Karasawa paints a humanizing portrait that at turns is heartwrenching and comical.
In some moments Stritch is every bit the no-holds-barred firecracker that the world knows her to be, she drops f-bombs with the frequency of a middle-school boy still getting used to the feel of profanity flying off his tongue, but in quieter, more reflective moments (which sometimes follow on the heels of such candid outbursts) Stritch exhibits a softer side. She confides her fears that come with her day-to-day grapple against diabetes, aging and alcoholism and reflects warmly on her late husband and her love of the stage.
From moment-to-moment Stritch drops recollections of dating John F. Kennedy (She picked him up one night because he was too attractive to leave behind), shares a wish to be able to drive (if she could, she’d really be a menace) and posits assertions that she can feel her time coming. The experience of watching her is one of highs and lows, and perhaps that’s what makes the film so moving and real.
“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” is, without a doubt, a must for fans of Broadway, and the woman herself, but is also essential viewing for anyone who loves a good bit of insight into the human condition.