Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
★★★☆☆

Elaine Strich is the best kind of celebrity--one famous enough to rightly possess all the attitude and ego of a prim donna, but obscure enough to walk down the streets of New York without getting mobbed. Her storied Broadway career and legendary battle with booze was brilliantly captured in her 2001 Tony Award winning one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, which was made into an HBO special. That show seemed like the final, definitive button on a unique show business life but, as the Stephen Sondheim number that became her signature song plainly states, Elaine Strich is “Still Here.” And now she’s the subject of the warts-and-all documentary, Elaine Strich: Shoot Me, which is reminiscent of the Joan Rivers film, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Though Strich feels very much in command throughout this movie, it succeeds even better than A Piece of Work at creating an intimate portrait of a show biz survivor--perhaps because Strich seems closer to “the end” (at least of her career) than Rivers did in 2010. Alcoholism, diabetes and plain old “old age” have taken quite a toll on the diminutive actress/singer physically, but her mind, ego and attitude remain as sharp and feisty as ever.

There are two kinds of documentaries about famous people: weak pictures that hold interest only for fans of the subject, and the good pictures that use their subject to get at universal truths that are of interest to all audiences. This is one of the good ones. We all wish we had more time to accomplish the things we want to accomplish, and even young invincibles should be able to relate to the emotions and situations on display in this picture. First-time director Chiemi Karasawa has rendered a blunt but loving look at a tough old broad who is smart enough and honest enough to know that her best years are long behind her but unwilling to exit the stage until she absolutely has to.  I found myself consistently moved and invigorated by this inspiring film.

Directed by Chiemi Karasawa
Produced by Chiemi Karasawa and Elizabeth Hemmerdinger

With: Elaine Stritch, Rob Bowman, Tina Fey, James Gandolfini, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Paul Iacono, Cherry Jones, Julie Keyes, Nathan Lane, Ramona Mallory, Tracy Morgan, Harold Prince, John Turturro, George C. Wolfe, and Alec Baldwin

Cinematography: Rod Lamborn, Shane Sigler, and Joshua Z. Weinstein
Editing: Kjerstin Rossi and Pax Wassermann
Music: Kristopher Bowers

Runtime: 80 min
Release Date: 19 April 2013
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Color