89-year-old Broadway icon Elaine Stritch, in her black tights, sunglasses and furs, is just as much a staple of New York City as The Naked Cowboy. Similarly, she also doesn’t enjoy wearing pants, though her disdain has more to do with showing off her trademark long legs than anything else. Stritch is the epitome of a performer, with an uncanny ability to sing, dance, crack jokes, act… you name it. Along with her extreme talent, Stritch is also brassy, sassy, and classy, and I love her for it. Unsurprisingly, her poignant documentary entitled Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is just as entertaining and honest as the woman herself.
Filmed two years ago, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me follows the legendary entertainer around for a year as she prepares for her one woman show “Elaine Stritch: Singin’ Sondheim, One Song at a Time.” Much like Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Stritch comes off as a woman with a rollicking feistiness. However, as the documentary progresses, you discover that she really does care. She cares about not being able to remember Sondheim’s lyrics as well as she once could; she cares that she lost her husband to cancer; she cares about getting older and her struggle with sobriety and diabetes; and most of all, like any true performer, she cares about us, the audience.
Unlike many other biographical documentaries I’ve seen recently, Stritch lets us into her world to see her life, warts and all. This documentary doesn’t hide her battle with diabetes, which is a constant source of anxiety and hospital visits. It also doesn’t hide the moments where Stritch is elated after receiving good reviews and feedback about her one woman show and her last appearance on 30 Rock. Honest to the core, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me never feels like propaganda, an attempt to win more fans through a syrupy sweet film. In fact, in one particular scene, my favorite in the entire documentary, Stritch chides the film crew for not following her around more closely while dramatically cutting into a package of Bay’s English Muffins (her late husband’s family business). She asks them to re-shoot that scene, though director Chiemi Karasawa chooses to leave the entire exchange in the film; a perfect example of Stritch’s flair for entertainment and Karasawa’s search for truth.
You don’t have to be a devoted Stritch fan to enjoy Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. I didn’t actually know that much about her before watching the film. That just shows what a wonderful documentary it truly is. It is easily my favorite film so far this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes my “best of the year” list. It will certainly at least get an honorable mention.
To say Elaine Stritch has lived a full, interesting life would be an understatement. After all, I don’t think there are many women who turned down JFK during a nightcap. I hope she continues to entertain us all for years to come, black tights and all.
My Review: A