Age is only a number, you young whippersnappers!
Elaine Stritch was a woman of many talents. She could sing, dance, be funny, make people laugh, give a hell of a show, etc. But her best talent of all, was just being herself. Even if she was a brass, sometimes mean, older lady that usually gave those around her a hell of a hard time, she always gave it her all, no matter what it was she was working on. It could have either been as Jack’s mom on 30 Rock. Or her numerous appearances on Broadway. Or even the recordings she did for songs she sang in the past. No matter what she was doing, Elaine Stritch gave it her all and most of the time, came out on top, even if she had to knock a couple of people down a notch or two, just to prove that she’s the hardest, longest working-lady around.
All up until the day she died in her sleep, which, tragically, happened on the wee hours of July 17, 2014.
It’s hard to review a movie, let alone, a documentary, when the subject called into question has just recently passed away. Something else that makes the task a bit harder is knowing that the documentary is highlighting a certain part in said subject’s life that is not only some of their last months/years alive, but also that at the end, the movie lets it be known to us that the subject plans on retiring in 2015. Or in 2016. Or in 2017. And so on and so forth.
Usually how I get prepared for writing reviews. Except more make-up, dammit!
That little note at the end shows us all exactly the kind of hard-worker Elaine Stritch truly was, even up until her final days alive, but in order to totally understand that fact about her, you’d have to see this. Because, not only does director Chiemi Karasawa really get us up close and personal with the woman that was Elaine Stritch in front of the camera and her many friends/family, but who she was when the lights were turned on, the curtain dropped, and the show was over, which was a very vulnerable, self-conscious soul that wanted to always make those around her happy and feel pleased with what it is that she’s done for them. Which, when initially watching this flick, you’ll be surprised to see because Elain Stritch was no lovely walk-in-the-park to be around.
That’s not to say she was a terrible person, she was just an unpredictable one that usually controlled whatever conversation she was having, with whomever that person may have been. Such personable celebrities like Tracy Morgan, the late great James Gandolfini (who this film is, oddly enough, dedicated to), Tina Fey and even Alec Baldwin, all come to tell their story of how one Elaine Stritch put them in their place, just upon meeting her for the first time. They also go on to say that she was never afraid to speak her mind and call it like it she saw it, which, in the business that is the movie-making business, is usually more of a fault, than a positive. However, that was the beauty with Stritch, both off and on the screen: She was able to get past it all by just giving the crowd and everyone else exactly what they wanted from her.
She’s like any other performer out there in the world, except she’s not; she’s her own kind of beast that goes by her own rules/ways of doing things, and if you don’t like it, then piss off and find somebody else that can do it nearly as good as her. The problem was, nobody could and that’s why Stritch is truly a talent to be missed.
Now, I do realize that this whole “review”, has turned into being more of a “tribute” to the late, great actress that was Elaine Stritch, but it’s just what can happen when you see a movie about somebody at the end of their road (though not really), and how they continue to live on a day-to-day basis, doing what it is that they want, how they want it, where they want it, and however they want it. And Elaine Stritch do exactly this, is interesting; she’s the type of old lady (although she prefers to use the term “older) that can be cranky and get on people’s case about something meaningful to her, but she isn’t the kind of old lady that’s lost her edge, nor her smarts about the business or how to approach she things. She still sang, performed and sure as hell acted until she called it “quits”, and even then, she couldn’t fully sit down and stay down. She had to get back up, find some work to do and shows the world she’s still got it and never going to throw in the towel.
Not the one you want to call “grand-ma”.
Of course though, as is the case with life, it all caught up with her, which gets highlighted in this movie very much. Stritch’s many problems with diabetes and alcoholism is explored many of times, showing us that Stritch had many demons deep down inside of her, most of which, she wasn’t willing to let be shared in this movie, until push eventually came to shove. However, the movie doesn’t use this as a way to show us its subject, and make her seem more sympathetic; she doesn’t ask for our sadness, nor do we really want to give it to her. We want her to feel better about life in any way that she can, and because Stritch wants that just as much as we do, it’s pleasing to watch her whenever she’s performing in front of a crowd, regardless of the size of it, or whether or not said performance is to be her last.
Either way, for Elaine Stritch, swan song, or no swan song, the gal continued to go on and didn’t want to sit still. That’s not only a testament to the kind of performer she truly was, but to the old era of Broadway stars that did everything and lived like stars. They were all so very talented, but Stritch in particular was the kind of star that made you wonder: Does age really matter? Because, just as long as you’re able to keep some of your sanity, as well as still being able to be inspired by the thrill of working and performing, then no, it doesn’t. Just live like Elaine Stritch:
Continue to perform and do things, the way you want to do things. Because as long as you give it your all, then everybody’s happy. Most especially yourself.
Consensus: While it certainly takes on a new life, post-death, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is the kind of documentary that not only praises its subject for all the work she’s done throughout her storied-career, but also has us see what it was that really made her the way she was, both in front of, as well as behind, the camera/stage.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!
You go, Elaine!
Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images