Joyous Shoot Me an Inspired Comedic Biography
I’m not sure it’s possible to dislike Elaine Stritch. The Tony and Emmy Award winning comedian, now in her 80s, is as vital and as confident as ever, her joie de vivre and zest for living life as apparent now as it has ever been at any point in her rambunctious, sprawling six-plus decades in the public spotlight. She is a woman of substance, talent, intellect and imagination, and to call or think of her as anything less would be a disservice in more ways than I can possibly count.
It is this life that the new cinema vérité style documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me attempts to explore, doing just that and then some rather marvelously. With the woman herself at the center of it all, filled with interviews and candid observations from the likes of Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Cherry Jones, Nathan Lane, John Turturro and the late James Gandolfini, director Chiemi Karasawa does a sublime job of examining this exceptional artist’s life and career in immaculate detail.
I was struck oftentimes by just how candid much of this proves to be. Stritch doesn’t hold back, and like most great talents she is without a doubt her own worst critic. She speaks openly about her struggles, especially how they related to her alcoholism and fight against diabetes, but also her fear of getting old and her latter realizations that age was something to be embraced, not feared. The comedian opens up about it all while at the same time her friends, coworkers and those inspired by her comedic fearlessness wax poetic about all she’s meant to them as they’ve struck forth on their own professional careers.
Interspersed throughout all of this are archival and vintage clips of Stritch in action. Some of them we’ve obviously seen before. Many of them we blissfully have not. All work in dexterous tandem with everything else going on inside the film, Karasawa weaving things together in a melodious tapestry of inspiration and intellect that’s as rapturous and informative as it is entertaining and, more often than not, hysterical.
So, again, is it possible to dislike the legendary comic? Not to my mind, and as far as I’m concerned Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me proves it without anything close to resembling doubt.
Film Rating: 3 out of 4
Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle