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‘Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me’: A crotchety star bares her soul


IFC Films presents a documentary directed by Chiemi Karasawa. Opens Friday at the Music Box.

It’s the infamously edgy candor of actress Elaine Stritch that comes across in first-time director Chiemi Karasawa’s terrific documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.”

Karasawa clearly succeeded in capturing Stritch’s complete trust as the Tony and Emmy winner shared her battles with alcoholism, the aging process, and diabetes — expressed via Stritch’s ever-crotchety personality. But some of the best moments are when Stritch’s friends and fellow entertainment world colleagues share their reflections.

Just as Stritch pulls no punches, nor do such folks as the late, great James Gandolfini (himself famously testy at times), directors Hal Prince and George C. Wolfe, Nathan Lane, Tina Fey, John Turturro and actress Cherry Jones. All express admiration for the actress’ undeniable gifts but are equally blunt describing how infuriatingly scary she can be when her diva quotient is displayed in full.

Younger audiences likely know Stritch from her hilarious moments playing Alec Baldwin’s mother and intellectual equal on “30 Rock.” Yet, it is wonderful to be reminded of the impact Stritch had singing “The Ladies Who Lunch” in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”

Through it all, it’s very evident that Stritch understands that the curtain on her life likely will be coming down soon and there are quite touching moments where she does exhibit personal vulnerability that many of us would share with her. Though wrenching, scenes of the actress in the hospital reveal so much of what makes this woman tick.

However, it’s also true that Stritch wants her amazing life to be noted and applauded — for doing things her way, often against the grain of conventional show biz wisdom, but with a degree of success few achieve in the world of entertainment. Just as Stritch’s audiences adore her, she obviously is driven to go on by the love she feels for those who appreciate her wit and candor.

This is a must-see for anyone who loves theater, acting and especially individuals like Elaine Stritch unafraid to bare their souls — so all of us can gain more insight into the complicated essence of the human condition.

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