Courtesy of Smart Broad Films
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
2013, 80 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
It isn’t often that a documentary on a celebrity shows its subject as warts-and-all as Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me does. Produced and directed by Chiemi Karasawa, Shoot Me is an in-depth look at Elaine Stritch, the foul-mouthed, hard-as-nails, actress who, at 88, is still acting and is now just leaving New York City after over 65 years to return to her home state of Michigan. Stritch, as shown in the film, has dated or acted with every great actor, classic and contemporary, and has worked with multiple great playwrights, directors, and composers. This film follows her life at 86 going into 87 and shows her ups and downs.
As a recovered alcoholic, Stritch now allows herself one drink per day, as she figures that she can allow herself that luxury because of her age. Stritch has had a hard life. Her beloved husband died about 30 years ago, she is a recovering alcoholic, and is diabetic. However, none of this seems to have gotten the better of Stritch as she says that she decided to get on with her life soon after her husband died. This attitude epitomizes Stritch’s enthusiasm for life and her need to keep moving forward.
The crafting of this documentary is impeccable, as Karasawa fills the movie with an endless amount of fascinating footage and stills and still manages to keep the length short and sweet so the film never wears out its welcome. Karasawa should be commended for not making just another celebratory documentary about a celebrity. This film really gets to the heart of who Stritch is and explores the essence of this woman. As I mentioned, this is a warts-and-all documentary. It shows Stritch in the hospital, suffering from her diabetes, but also performing on stage seeming as youthful as ever. This is not a superficial documentary.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is also a marvel to watch because it is so much fun. While it does have its dark moments, it is hilarious and entertaining because of its fantastic subject. When Stritch is onscreen (most of the film), she is magnetic. Though she may be old, she is no less fresh and funny than she was years ago.
Overall, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is a brilliant documentary that will surely be picked up for distribution by the end of the festival. This will be a huge crowd-pleaser.