Movie Review
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
Elaine Stritch poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published March 7, 2014
US Release: February 21, 2014

Directed by: Chiemi Karasawa
Starring: Alec Baldwin , Tina Fey , James Gandolfini , Nathan Lane

Running Time: 80 minutes
18 of 111
This is a documentary on a Broadway and acting legend who is now 87 years old and it was the opposite of what I expected.
I expected a C- experience out of this film and was pleasantly surprised that it was almost good. Before going into this special screening I took one look at the poster when I was at home and said ďoh hell noĒ and the trailer didnít appeal to me at all either. It looked like a painfully cute feature for senior citizens but I sucked it up anyway and went and I ended up relatively happy that I took a chance with this because it was better than most of the films currently playing in theaters. The trailer doesnít do justice for this feature and it initially scared me off because I am 57 years younger than the leading lady. This is a documentary on a Broadway and acting legend named Elaine Stritch who is now 87 years old and currently retired from the business because of old age and it was the opposite of what I expected.

What I didnít know about Stritch beforehand was that sheís a foul-mouthed and feisty personality and the feature is an interesting compilation of life clips and anecdotes from her many decades in business and is a character study of a very old woman who doesnít speak and behave like your typical senior. I expected an hour and twenty minutes of painfully cute material that would only delight seniors and I ended up actually identifying somewhat with her persona and was surprised at how youthful she is in her day-to-day life. However, I canít go all out and call this a good feature even though it surprised me because I have no interest in watching it again, as I always see recommended films more than once. I had bottom of the barrel expectations going into this which is why my reaction is positive but still mixed. My reaction to this feature may have been stronger if I had been a fan of her career or grown up with her career and generation, as most of the audience was at this screening who all loved it to death. The audience at this screening was all senior citizens who knew who she was and were avid fans of her life.

I didnít grow up with this lady as this audience had but I found her amusing and insightful and was delighted at what a mouth she has and her general irreverence. She heavily pokes fun at the life of being an aging superstar in business, her own career, as well as all the fans who have watched her grow old. The documentary is about what itís like to have grown up in the business and what itís like to reach an age when your senses begin to fade and you start to lose what you used to have. Itís a commentary on the tragedy and beauty of getting so old and the refusal of giving in to old age/waiting for your death. Sheís 87 years old but she talks and behaves like sheís 40 years younger and doesnít want to lose that. Her youthful attitude has kept her alive in my opinion and sheís the opposite of a typical old woman. I enjoyed her presence and chuckled a few times because of her honest bluntness about everything, but I canít actually recommend the feature because itís not funny enough or interesting enough to go again. Seniors who see this film in theaters will probably tell their friends to see it and might go see it again because they can relate to the aging dilemma and the issues that unfold and probably know her career.

This documentary reminded me of a Jerry Seinfeld feature called Comedian which was about the brutality of stand-up comedy and touring night clubs, which detailed Seinfeldís career and others. I heavily responded to Comedian because Iím familiar with stand-up comedy and respect certain talents in the field and heavily admire the ability to get up anywhere and be funny and see what works. Comedian is about the up-and-down rollercoaster ride of being funny versus unfunny in stand-up comedy and put you right there onstage with certain talents and watched them either hit or miss. You watch Seinfeld rise from being in his early 20ís doing stand-up and well into his adulthood and witness the pain of having to come up with good material to entertain and see just how hard it is to be funny.

A lot of my enjoyment of Comedian is that I wasnít a fan of Seinfeld from his television sitcom and the documentary introduced me to a side of him that I wasnít aware of and made me respect him much more. I was also very well aware of many of the talents it depicts and thought it was a fascinating portrayal on a subject that you donít see features like this on, and to this day I can still watch it again. The documentary is part feel-good underdog story and part horror-freak show about what you have to go through in the stand-up comedy field to become successful. You see the successes and the failures.

The Elaine Stritch documentary is similar in being a feel-good underdog story as well as a horror-freak show, and the horror-freak show is mostly pertaining to the aging process. You see the moments in her life when she was full of life and had all senses working for her, as well as the more recent years when she fights for the ability to be just like she was in the many decades past. I enjoyed what I saw but Iím probably not going to watch it again which keeps me from a good grade. Itís a character study that kind of works but nothing that was presented makes me want to watch it again. Even though itís not even 90 minutes long, I was starting to get tired of it as it reached its finale because I got it already and I didnít need more screen time to enlighten me on what a life like this is all about. Literally right when I told myself that it needed to end now to sustain my previous surprise commentary on it, it reached its conclusion, and going on any longer than it did would have softened my reaction. It doesnít go out with as much of a bang as it should go considering her intensely fierce personality, but if you asked the audience in attendance, it was a masterpiece documentary. Most of the audience burst out in applause after the last line of dialogue, and I did not, but I almost clapped because it was better than I expected.
Lee's Grade: C+
Ranked #18 of 111 between Inherent Vice (#17) and Theory of Everything (#19) for 2014 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'Elaine Stritch' Articles
  • Craig's review B-
    March 13, 2014    Itís a sometimes funny, sometimes insightful look at one of our longest-running entertainers. -- Craig Younkin