Film review: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me | Arts
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Film review: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

Posted by on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 5:58 PM

click to enlarge Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. Courtesy of Smart Broad Films.
  • Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me. Courtesy of Smart Broad Films.
Man, Elaine Stritch sure is a handful.

Feisty, foul-mouthed and ferocious, Stritch is incapable of turning it down a notch. A Broadway legend, she's perhaps most famous to the general public for her role as Jack Doanghy's caustic mother on 30 Rock. Even though she’s a legendary pain in the ass, the stage and screen veteran is beloved, as evidenced in the new documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.

Friends and colleagues admire the hell out of her, of course. Before he left this mortal coil, James Gandolfini was filmed professing his love for Stritch, pointing out that if they were both younger, they probably would’ve had a torrid love affair that ended badly.

And she has plenty of fans outside showbiz. Walking through the streets of New York City in a fuzzy fur coat, gigantic Swifty Lazar glasses and no pants, Stritch could easily be mistaken for a crazy bag lady if not for the passersby telling her how much they enjoy her work.

She loves her work, too. Approaching age 87 literally kicking and screaming, Stritch prepares for her latest nightclub act, which has her performing the songs of Stephen Sondheim. But since she’s getting up there in years—not to mention that she has often-debilitating diabetes and an ongoing struggle with alcoholism—the words to “I Feel Pretty” don’t flow as easily as they used to.

Director Chiemi Karasawa hits all the bullet points of Stritch’s life and career, but she’s most intrigued by her subject's current state of mind, now that she may not be able to whoop it up on stage for much longer. Much like Stritch herself, the movie is unfiltered in its view of a gal in her golden years. Her diabetic attacks, which can make the outspoken performer unable to speak, are even more uncomfortable to witness than her loud rehearsal meltdowns.

But even when she needs help getting on stage or remembering the next line in a tune, Stritch soldiers on. Ultimately, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me makes you root for her even when you’ve had your fill of her.

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
★★★
Now playing at the Carolina Theatre, the Chelsea Theater and the Raleigh Grande 

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