Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

A tribute to a Broadway icon becomes the study of an aging actress.
February 19, 2014
Time Investment: 80 min.
Return on Investment: 70 min.
 
Director Chiemi Karasawa spends much of Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Sundance Selects) as a fly on the wall of the 87-year-old Broadway icon’s life. Stritch, traipsing around New York in nothing more than a massive fur coat, black leggings and those signature white gloves, appears to live the dream life; she’s adored by fans old (her Virginia Woolf and Company days) and young (her Emmy winning role on 30 Rock), lives in a corner suite at the famed Carlyle Hotel, performs downstairs in the hotel nightclub and vacations in the Hamptons. 
 
But this is the Elaine Stritch that Elaine Stritch wants us to see: the forever-young, forever-working Stritch. She is very in control of that character throughout Karasawa’s documentary, even going so far as to tell the cameraman how to shoot her. 
 
Then there is the Stritch Karasawa is most interested in: the one with diabetes, whose greatest fear is her inevitable death. 
 
The film pivots from a behind-the-scenes look at her newest cabaret show—filled with laudatory comments from the likes of Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey—to an up-close-and-personal look at the vulnerabilities of an aging star. We see the fear in her eyes when she is rushed to the hospital and we realize just how lonely she is up in the suite when she watches her final 30 Rock episodes alone. This is no Norma Desmond, plotting her big comeback from isolation. Stritch is ok with it all ending. But that doesn’t mean the wait isn’t scary.