Movie Review: 'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me' is a fond look at acting diva

For the News-DemocratMarch 13, 2014 

In politically incorrect vernacular, Broadway legend Elaine Stritch would be described as a tough old broad and a salty dame.

At age 88, she remains a force of nature, but naturally diminished by age and health issues. With her larger-than-life persona and illustrious career achievements, she is candid, blunt and brassy in this documentary.

"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" is a revealing, funny and touching portrait of a woman who carved a singular career, and is an unapologetic diva, equal parts brilliant and demanding.

The woman has commanded a stage for decades, earning four Tony nominations ("Bus Stop," 1956; "Sail Away," 1961; "Company," 1971; and "A Delicate Balance")- and winning a special award for her crackling one-woman show at the Liberty in 2002. She also won an Emmy (it was filmed for HBO), and gave a feisty acceptance speech that answered "Who is Elaine Stritch?" with a bold exclamation point.

Director Chiemi Karasawa started filming her in 2011, as she prepared another one-woman show, this one featuring Stephen Sondheim's music. Her indelible delivery of "The Ladies Who Lunch" in "Company" is regarded as the gold standard, and all Joannes are measured against her.

A Detroit native born in 1925, the tall and leggy performer has also acted in movies and TV, most memorable for her crotchety turn as Colleen Donaghy, Alec Baldwin's mother in "30 Rock" from 2007 to 2012, winning an Emmy. Baldwin is an executive producer of this film.

Stritch is revered, and actors -- including Nathan Lane and James Gandolfini -- offer up their opinions and anecdotes here.

While the showbizzy segments are fun, the real woman emerges as she fights, then makes peace with, the twilight of her years. The march of time stops for no one, and Stritch's strength, wit and wisdom come through, earning her a lengthy standing ovation on one remarkable life.

Playing at the Tivoli and also Video on Demand.

4 stars out of 4

Director: Chiemi Karasawa

Length: 1:20

Documentary, not rated

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