Elaine Stritch is one of those pop-culture figures who you either know too much about or have never heard of.
A star of the Broadway stage for 70 years, she landed in New York at 18, took the town by storm and never looked back. She has a looong memory, what seems like total recall and absolutely no filter.
Which is what makes Chiemi Karasawa’s “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” such a treat. Karasawa’s camera unobtrusively follows Stritch and catches her tossed-off one-liners and interplay with others, whether it’s fans on the street or Alec Baldwin on the set of “30 Rock.” (At one point, while rehearsing a scene, she ad libs a line – to which Baldwin says, with a laugh, as he exits, “That’s my laugh line. Don’t you last-word me, you bitch.”)
What do we learn? That Stritch, who turned 87 during the filming (she’s 89 now), went on a couple of dates with a young John F. Kennedy, who lost interest when the former convent-school-girl wouldn’t put out. That she quit drinking for more than 20 years but, now in her late 80s, has decided to have one drink a day. That she has diabetes, which is a constant source of worry. That she has memory problems with song lyrics from time to time – but uses it to her advantage onstage.
Indeed, that’s the most intriguing thing about “Shoot Me”: that contrast between how tough and straight-talking Stritch is and how vulnerable she seems. There’s a kind of disconnect between how frail she appears at moments when her blood sugar wreaks havoc on her mental state and how rip-roaring ready she looks when she hits the stage at the Cafe Carlyle or Town Hall in New York.
This review continues on my website.