PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me' Invites the Viewer to Drink Up a Vibrant Life

Watching Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, the primary impression left is that Stritch had many more stories to tell.


Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

Director: Chiemi Karasawa
Cast: Elaine Stritch
Distributor: MPI Home Video
Rated: Unrated
US DVD release date: 2014-06-24

Watching Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me days after she passed away is strange and sad. She is so alive and full of energy in the movie, that you can’t help but think that she was someone who would simply never die—who simply could not die. Directed by Chiemi Karasawa, the film follows Elaine as she prepared for her farewell concert series at The Carlyle Hotel in New York City (where she was also one of their most famous residents), which she called “Elaine Stritch Singing Sondheim...One Song at a Time”. The very fact that she did not choose to call it a “farewell tour”—when even the much younger Cher and Barbra Streisand have had their versions of those—is testament to the kind of life she chose to live.

With those legs that seemed to go on forever, that seductive growl of a voice and her gaze both charming and terrifying (think of a predator about to woo and devour its prey), Stritch became one of the grand dames of American theater, thanks in part to her indelible performances of Stephen Sondheim’s work. Her “Ladies Who Lunch”, perhaps her signature song, is such a powerful moment that many bars in New York City served “another vodka stinger” the day she passed away. With her strength, you half expected Elaine to show up and order one herself.

In the film, she tells how she became an alcoholic; however, as she aged (she doesn’t believe in “being old”, she explains, but “being older”) she decided that she would treat herself to one drink a day. Alcoholism is no light matter, but it is a joy to watch her order a Cosmopolitan when she’s having lunch with her friends. The look of childlike excitement on her face as the waiter sets down the pink concoction is almost too brutally honest. Despite her deep love for performance, it seems that this was her greatest virtue: honesty.

We see a clip at the Emmys where she won an award for her variety special Elaine Stritch at Liberty. One of the first things she does is apologize for drinking too much. As her speech goes on, it seems as if she simply can’t stop oversharing. This made her instantly lovable, as well as a fascinating example of a performer whose honesty doesn’t seem overly calculated or performance-like. (Jennifer Lawrence seems like an obvious heir to this legacy.) When the film begins, Stritch is 86, and she lets the camera follow her everywhere. We see her attend doctor's’ appointments, throw a fit over having the wrong denture, and try to charm her way out of a possible traffic ticket (she asked her driver to wait for her in a forbidden spot) all with the lack of self-consciousness of someone unaware that a film crew was capturing everything.

Her lack of vanity is touching, and forces one to wonder if she even existed when there wasn’t an audience around. As a true performer, she became alive when she was given a chance to perform. This does not, however, manifest as an an obnoxious shout of “look at me!”, but rather in a more profound way, which makes us wonder if people who don’t feel this way are even in the right career. Because of her advanced age, she was prone to forget the words in her songs, but instead of turning this into a terrible drama, she encouraged audience participation and we see how people would be thrilled in helping her out.

Watching her tell John Turturro about the first time she had an orgasm for example, his eyes wide as full moons, is remarkable both because of the situation in question and because she makes it sound as if this was the first time she had ever told anyone that story.

How she was able to be both grand and intimate is a mystery, and perhaps what made her so important during the six decades she was active. People who know about her work because of 30 Rock—where she played Alec Baldwin’s mother—will be delighted to hear her call him “Joan Crawford” because of his explosive ways, only to see him seconds later lavishing her with praise. This brutality made her irresistible. In a heartbreaking scene, James Gandolfini laughingly explains how they met and how he knows that if she had been three decades younger at the time of their meeting, they would have had a torrid love affair. “It would have ended badly,” he adds with a mischievous laughter.

Stritch doesn’t even shy away from talking about her own heartbreak. She talks of how much she loved her husband (actor John Bay, who passed away in 1982) and how as hard as she tried, she never loved anyone else after him. You can’t help but wonder how many more stories she had in her, and can’t help but feel sad about the fact that she is no longer here to tell them.

DVD Extras include a trailer, teaser, outtakes and a standard making-of documentary.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.