"I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

57th BFI London Film Festival Review: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

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Director: Chemi Karasawa

Starring: Elaine Stritch, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, James Gandolfini, Rob Bowman

Synopsis: A documentary on Elaine Stritch – Broadway star and regular 30 Rock guest. Mainly detailing her new show, “Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time”.

Being part of “the scene” for so long, it’s easy to imagine an instinctual ability to see past most people’s bullshit. Elaine Stritch has been a figure on film, TV, the stage, and music for so long she’s blunt and unapologetic. She’s led an incredibly interesting life, meeting a host of famous faces (Kennedy once propositioned her before he was President), now ready to tell that story. Obviously comfortable around the company she keeps, Stritch is open and direct; Chemi Karasawa’s documentary thus becomes a very honest and revealing “celeb story”.

Paired with interviews from her closest colleagues and friends, there isn’t a lot you don’t learn about Stritch’s life. Often a walk-in-the-park, full of fun and fame, the drama of her life comes from alcoholism and loss. Her late husband was clearly a huge part of her life – and still is – and the description of her love is very touching.

As much as Elaine can make you howl with laughter, she can also bring you to tears. In her old age she still pines for the stage and for work. As is life, though, her body cannot always keep up with her whims and wishes, leading her to feel a great deal of pain when natural causes stop her. Diabetic and in her 80s, Stritch hasn’t the zest to do everything she desires, and with the camera watching those revelations appear before Elaine’s teary eyes it’s poignant.

Bittersweet and side-splitting, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me hasn’t got a wide commercial appeal but will be enjoyed by those who seek it out. Those unaware of Stritch gain a revelatory story of a pretty massive star, along with her adoring, caring collaborator Rob Bowman.

****

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