Movie Review - Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

This past month, on July 17, 2014, Elaine Stritch passed away at the age of 89 in Michigan. Earlier this year a documentary about the Broadway legend was released in theaters, which charted her last working year. It started with Stritch at age 86 and stayed with her until her 87th birthday and her final on-stage performance before she finally decided to retire, leave New York City and spend the rest of her days in Michigan, which is where she was born.

On the surface, the film by Chiemi Karasawa is similar to documentaries like Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) and Carol Channing: Larger Than Life (2012). Same themes and issues do pop up. One in particular is the idea of aging. Being as old as she is, it's obvious that she's cognizant of her age and pending death. She's comfortable in it, even though she prefers saying she's getting "older" rather than getting "old."

The movie opens with a very spry Stritch walking the streets of Manhattan in her fur coat and big glasses. Plenty scenes follow Stritch as she goes place-to-place, performing from show-to-show. Karasawa's camera focuses a lot on Stritch's legs. Her legs were always in slick, black stockings, but the way she moved and their slender nature suggest she had very sexy legs and like Tina Turner proved to be her best quality.

At one point, the actress Cherry Jones is interviewed and Jones comments that Stritch was like an ostrich. Her surname and the name of the bird sounded similar, but Jones continues that both had their legs as a defining feature. Stritch was aware of this, as all of her performances involve her wearing not much more than a slightly unbuttoned, collared shirt and her stockings. In fact, she never wears pants.

We get only brief interviews from people like Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey who worked with Stritch on the NBC series 30 Rock. My favorite comments come from the late James Gandolfini who says he fell in love with her after she had yelled at him.

It's early established that Stritch is diabetic. We see her checking her insulin levels aside fellow diabetic Tracy Morgan. The rest of the movie honestly deals with her struggle with the disease as well as her struggle with alcoholism.

The movie is a great tribute to her. Her career was a great one. She worked with so many of the greats from Rock Hudson to Woody Allen. Karasawa allows her to memorialize her late husband who died early in her marriage to him. There is also a brief scene where some of Stritch's family visit her before one of her last shows. Yet, not much is made of her never having children.

Not much is made of her social life. She does mention that many friends have passed. We also see her having dinner with younger, fellow actors like John Turturro, but I feel like there are chunks of her life that was swept over. We get that she has simply been steadily working, but her relationship with Rob Bowman, her music director is a close one but there's still much about it that doesn't come through.

Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 21 mins.


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