Movie Review ~ Personal Shopper

The Facts:

Synopsis: Revolves around a ghost story that takes place in the fashion underworld of Paris.

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Anders Danielsen Lie, Lars Eidinger, Nora von Waldstätten, Pamela Betsy Cooper, Benjamin Biolay

Director: Olivier Assayas

Rated: R

Running Length: 105 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: I think we’re getting to the point where we can get past that Kristen Stewart headlined the Twilight franchise, right?  I mean, it’s time to recognize that she wasn’t the cause of all that misery she just collected a paycheck for it.  Sure, her off screen persona is decidedly aloof and she doesn’t smile a lot…but to deny admitting she’s a strong actress seems so very 2012.  After directing you to 2014’s Clouds of Sills Maria, I’d introduce Personal Shopper as Exhibit B in my defense case in the People vs Kristen Stewart.

While Personal Shopper is a lesser film than Clouds of Sills Maria (for which Stewart won France’s prestigious Caesar Award, becoming the first American actress ever to do so), this second collaboration between Stewart and director Oliver Assayas features the actress in nearly every frame of the movie.  Capably holding our focus for the entirety of its running length, Stewart (Snow White and the Huntsman) finally headlines a project that seems not only to be her cup of tea but one that plays a game she’s fully invested in.  She disappeared halfway through Clouds of Sills Maria and her absence was felt but she’s entirely captivating here as Maureen, an assistant to a tabloid-friendly superstar we barely see.

Scarier than you might expect with some legitimate jolts to your nerves, Personal Shopper is both a ghost story and a plaintive drama wrapped up in one Gallic package.  Opening with Maureen alone in a creaking manse as she tries to make contact with a spirit thought to be haunting the joint, we eventually learn she’s trying to make a connection to her recently deceased twin brother.  Both twins had a touch of the medium in them and with his sudden death, Maureen needs closure before she can move on with her life.

As she waits for another opportunity to locate his spirit, she spends her days traveling through Paris and beyond to pick up/out clothes and accessories for her employer.  The deeper she digs the more compact the movie becomes and before you know it, mysterious texts from an anonymous phone number tease of something sinister afoot and soon she’s involved with a murder.  To say more would spoil what Assayas has in store for you but it wouldn’t give much away to say that, in typical Assayas fashion, much of the the mystery is left for the audience to decode on their own.

Perhaps a bit too slow for most (I could see this being a bang-up 50-minute short film), I wasn’t ever bored by the movie and the performances (including Stewart) are off-kilter just enough to keep you guessing without dismissing them outright as merely bonkers.  Much of the movie is focused on the lengthy text conversation between Maureen and the mystery caller and this could have been an interminable bore had Assayas’s script not been so taut. I definitely was left with some questions but the more I thought about it the more I realized that the questions were far more interesting than the potential answers — that makes for an overall rewarding experience.

Hasta La Vista…Summer (May)

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Hasta

We did it! We made it through another summer and while the outdoor heat wasn’t too bad (in Minnesota, at least) the box office was on fire.

I’ll admit that I indulged in summer fun a bit more than I should, distracting me from reviewing some key movies over the last three months so I wanted to take this opportunity to relive the summer of 2015, mentioning my thoughts on the movies that got away and analyzing the winners and losers by month and overall.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride read.

May

Though the summer movie season has traditionally been thought of as Memorial Day through Labor Day, in the past several years studios have marked early May as the start of the summer movie wars and 2015 was no different.

Kicking things off on May 1 was Avengers: Age of Ultron and, as expected, it was a boffo blockbuster that gave fans more Marvel fantasy fun. While it wasn’t as inventive as its predecessor and relied too much on jokey bits, the movie was everything a chartbuster should be: big, loud, worth another look.

Acting as a bit of counter-programming, the next week saw the release of two very different comedies, neither of which made much of a dent in the box office take of The Avengers. Critics gnashed their teeth at the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara crime comedy Hot Pursuit but I didn’t mind it nearly as much as I thought I would. True, it set smart girl power flicks back a few years but it played well to the strengths of its leads and overall was fairly harmless. I hadn’t heard of The D Train before a screening but was pleasantly surprised how good it turned out to be, considering I’m no fan of Jack Black. The movie has several interesting twists that I didn’t see coming, proving that Black and co-star James Marsden will travel out of their comfort zones for a laugh.

Blythe Danner proved she was more than Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom in the lovely, if slight, I’ll See You in My Dreams. It may be too small a picture to land Danner on the end of the year awards list she deserves but the drama was a welcome change of pace so early in the summer.

Another early May drama was a wonderful adaptation of a classic novel…and one I forgot to review when I had the chance…here’s my brief take on it now…

                                         Movie Review ~ Far From the Madding Crowd
far_from_the_madding_crowd_ver2The Facts
:
Synopsis: In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple, Tom Sturridge
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Rated: PG-13
Running Length: 119 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: This adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s celebrated novel was a moving drama brimming with quietly powerful performances and lush cinematography. It’s a story that has been duplicated quite a lot over the years so one could be forgiven for feeling like we’ve seen this all before. Still, in the hands of director Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) and led by stars Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone), & Michael Sheen (Admission) it stirred deep emotions that felt fresh. Special mention must be made to Craig Armstrong (The Great Gatsby) for his gorgeous score and Charlotte Bruus Christensen for her aforementioned picturesque cinematography. You missed this in the theater, I know you did…it’s out to rent/buy now and you should check it out pronto.

Around mid-May the summer bar of greatness was set with the arrival of Mad Max: Fury Road. The long in development fourth outing (and semi-reboot) of director George Miller’s apocalyptic hero was a movie lovers dream…pushing the boundaries of cinema and filmmaking into new places. A vicious, visceral experience, I can still feel the vibration in my bones from the robust film…a real winner.

The same week that Mad Max came back into our lives, a so-so sequel found its way to the top of the box office. Pitch Perfect 2 was a lazy film that’s as close to a standard cash grab as you could get without outright playing the original film and calling it a sequel. Uninspired and lacking the authenticity that made the first film so fun, it nevertheless made a song in receipts and a third film will be released in the next few years.

Tomorrowland and Poltergeist were the next two films to see the light of day and neither inspired moviegoers enough to gain any traction. Tomorrowland was actually the first film of the summer I saw twice…admittedly because I was curious about a new movie theater with reclining seats that I wanted to try out. As for the movie, the first half was an exciting adventure while the final act was a real mess.

I thought I’d hate the Poltergeist remake way more than I did…but I ended up just feeling bad for everyone involved because the whole thing was so inconsequential that I wished all of that energy had been directed into something of lasting value. While Sam Worthington made for a surprisingly sympathetic lead, the entire tone of the film was off and not even a few neat 3D effects could save it from being a waste.

May went out with a boom thanks to two wildly different films. If you asked me what I thought the prospects were for San Andreas before the screening I would have replied that Sia’s cover of California Dreamin’ would be the only good thing to come out of the action picture starring everyone’s favorite muscle with eyes, Dwayne Johnson. I still feel like Sia came out on top but the movie itself was a more than decent disaster epic, a little too long but made up for it with grand sequences of mayhem and destruction. Can’t imagine it will play nearly as well on a small screen but I wasn’t hating the film when the credits rolled.

A film I wasn’t too thrilled with at all was Aloha, Cameron Crowe’s own personal disaster flick. I still don’t know quite what to say about the movie because it was so dreadful that I’ve attempted to clear it from my memory. What I do remember was that it wasted its strong cast and exotic locale, as well as our time. Truly terrible.

STAY TUNED FOR JUNE, JULY, and AUGUST!

Movie Review ~ The D Train

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The Facts:

Synopsis: The head of a high school reunion committee travels to Los Angeles to track down the most popular guy from his graduating class and convince him to go to the reunion.

Stars: James Marsden, Jack Black, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White, Kathryn Hahn, Henry Zebrowski, Kyle Bornheimer, Adria Tennor, Russell Posner

Director: Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul

Rated: R

Running Length: 97 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: I used to be a movie-goer that loved to see previews of coming attractions sometimes more than the feature presentations themselves.  I’d consider being late to a movie if even one preview had unspooled…but over time the fifteen minutes worth of trailers took their toll on me and I was exhausted before the movie even began.  A nice part of being a critic and seeing screenings of films in advance is quite often there won’t be any previews before a movie…cutting down on my exasperated saturation of seeing the same teaser over and over and over again.

I mention this right away in my review of The D Train because it was one of those rare flicks I went into without ever having seen a preview or reading much about it.  All I knew was that it starred Jack Black (Bernie), James Marsden (Robot & Frank), and Kathryn Hahn (Bad Words) and that was good enough for me.  While not the biggest Jack Black fan in existence (his shtick having long since worn out its welcome on me in the mid-2000s) I’ve come to appreciate that the actor has taken some risks at this stage in his career.

The D Train is another risk that’s paid off not only for Black but Marsden too.  While not graced with the most profound character arcs thanks to writer/director Andrew Mogel & Jarrad Paul’s almost fully formed script, the two actors deliver surprisingly effective performances that are even-keeled and grounded even with some unexpected twists and turns that pop up.

Black plays another middle-aged everyman but this time the actor makes his Average Joe a human being and not some overgrown man-child.  The head (more figurehead) of his high-school reunion committee, Black works for a non-descript boss (Jeffrey Tambor, The Hangover Part III) at a non-descript job in a non-descript office that isn’t even wired for high-speed internet.  Though he has a loving, high-school sweetheart wife (Hahn) and kids he’s flatlining and knows it.

That all changes when he catches a commercial late at night featuring a high-school classmate (Marsden) that moved to LA shortly after graduating.  Hatching a plan to up the reunion attendance and at the same time becoming a local hero by convincing the “star” classmate to attend the reunion, Black travels to California to reconnect with an old pal that can’t remember him.

Up to this point, Mogel and Paul have kept things pretty standard fare.  Even a hackneyed scheme for Black to get his company to pay for his trip out west seems like something out of an ‘80s comedy checklist.  When Black arrives in LA, though, things take an unexpected turn that I wouldn’t dream of giving away.  Needless to say, it instantly ups the ante of Black and Marsden’s comedic stock and elevates the picture from being just another screw-up-makes-good farce.

That’s not to say it’s totally smooth sailing from then on out.  There’s more than a few slow sections in the third act of the film and the resolution seems a bit too pat considering all the carefully placed turns that came before; however at the end of the day I was more impressed with the comedy than I thought I would be.  There’s a certain sweetness to it and Black makes for a charmingly hapless sad sack dealing with a lot of feelings he hadn’t planned on exploring.  Marsden is one of the gamest actors out there, willing to play against type and trade on his looks if the part calls for it.  Make no mistake, though, the actor is always 100% aware of what he’s doing, which at times means you can see him stretching to be acknowledged for coloring outside the lines.  While she’s become known for being a gifted comic actress, Hahn has dramatic chops to counter the laughs and those are put to good use here as well.

With its retro synth score and overall old school ambiance, The D Train would be a film I’d think ‘80s maestro John Hughes would have given his stamp of approval to.  In a season getting stuffed with big budget action lollapaloozas and high concept studio comedies, you’re encouraged to hop on the indie goodness of The D Train.

Movie Review ~ Seymour: An Introduction

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Meet Seymour Bernstein: a beloved pianist, teacher and true inspiration who shares eye-opening insights from an amazing life. Ethan Hawke helms this poignant guide to life.

Stars: Seymour Bernstein, Ethan Hawke

Director: Ethan Hawke

Rated: PG

Running Length: 84 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  This sensitive doc from Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) is a good example of how to treat your elders…listen, learn, let them talk.

Famed pianist Seymour Bernstein may not be a household name to most because he hasn’t performed in public for decades, but after a chance encounter with Bernstein at a dinner party the actor became interested in learning more about the life-long New Yorker that imparts his wisdom to his students, his friends, and his contemporaries.

At a trim 84 minutes it’s less a biopic and more of a discussion with biographical context. We hear about Bernstein’s first encounter with music when a piano is brought into his house, which up until that point didn’t even have a radio to listen to.  Over the years his talent became evident, with only his mother fully supporting the musical prodigy her son was becoming.  Growing stage fright kept Bernstein out of the public eye for years, only occasionally playing for anyone outside his small one room apartment just big enough for a piano and pull out bed.

Hawke clearly found a kinship is Bernstein as the actor relays his own burgeoning stage fright these past years.  Perhaps making a film on Bernstein’s life and capturing on film his sage words was a way to exorcise some of those demons that plague many a creative individual.  No matter what the reason, Hawke’s portrait of Bernstein is as delicate as Bernstein’s technique, a technique Hawke shows in several working sessions Bernstein has with his students.  Quick to correct his pupils but just as quick to praise them, his attention to the smallest detail provides great insight into what it takes to achieve his level of musical sophistication.

A treat of a film, if there’s one drawback it’s that there’s no true momentum to be had.  Yes, Bernstein’s an interesting character and I think I could have sat through his entire master class, but the final result is an abridged autobiography conveyed on film.  Still, it’s so short that you can’t help but pay rapt attention and think about the Seymour Bernsteins in your own life.

Movie Review ~ Finding Vivian Maier

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one the most accomplished street photographers.

Stars: Vivian Maier

Director: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel

Rated: NR

Running Length: 83 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: What I love about a documentary that isn’t focused on war or politics is that they don’t have to waste precious celluloid (does anyone still use celluloid?) in their attempts to humanize their characters. There’s less excuse making, less partisan grandstanding, and just a general lack of that brazen BS that accompanies any investigation into a hot button issue. No, what is so great about movies like Finding Vivian Maier is that they can interview people who knew our titular character and have them say how aloof she came across, how independent her spirit was, how downright mean she could be, and it doesn’t detract from the fact that this woman had a remarkable talent that she kept all to herself.

Filmmakers John Maloof and Charlie Siskel (movie critic Gene Siskel’s son) have a good looking Oscar nominated documentary on their hands with a central subject so secretive and interesting that I’m actually glad her life remained a mystery until well after her death because to have any concrete answers from the source subject would have spoiled some of the magic.

When Maloof happens upon a box of Maier’s photographs and shares them with an art collector friend, there’s little interest until 2009 when Maier’s work took off like a rocket via the internet. Though she took thousands of pictures, Maier had hardly any developed either because of cost or lack of need. From what we learn, Maier was very much an in the moment photographer and the stunning snaps we see displayed show as much of Maier’s curious complexities as it does the seemingly mundane subjects she captured on film.

Maloof and Siskel’s film traces what little we know about Maier from her upbringing in New York as the daughter of immigrant parents to her days of working as a nanny for several families, many of whom are interviewed here. Maier was a tough taskmaster, relentlessly private, and kept her world very small…making the images she took over 40 plus years all the more interesting because they’ve locked engaging facets of humanity in a single frame forever.

Though she had two former charges that took care of her and paid her rent as she grew older, Maier’s personal life was also a mystery. When she died in October 2009 she had little worldly possessions…save for boxes and boxes of undeveloped film that would become her legacy. In discovering the treasures she kept hidden, Maloof and Siskel found more than an unknown’s life work…they found a valuable piece of history.

Movie Review ~ Boyhood

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The Facts:

Synopsis: The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18

Stars: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke 

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 166 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (10/10)

Review:  Director Michael Apted began filming a group of children in England when they were seven years old and has returned every seven years to check-in and see what dreams they have achieved, what losses they have suffered, and what obstacles they’ve overcome.  The last entry is 2012 was 56 Up and my advice is if you leave Richard Linklater’s equally impressive Boyhood wanting something in the same vein but with a pulse all its own and haven’t yet caught Apted’s eight film series to get on that pronto.

The comparisons between Apted’s decades in the making study of the class system in England and Linklater’s more focused following of one boy for twelve years are inevitable and both flourish on their own merits.  What truly bowled me over with Linklater’s three hour opus is that in the age of studios wanting films released faster and faster, he was able to take the time and resources to make this the way he wanted – and that’s something that should be applauded and admired.

It’s a simple set-up, really.  Find one young boy not too self-aware but still grounded and create a world with characters, situations, and ideas that explore how our experiences shape us as we grow.  Add two Hollywood actors that don’t mind a long-haul commitment with no guarantee for success and start filming!

There are so many factors with Boyhood that Linklater (Bernie) just couldn’t have known we he started the film.  Would the boy grow up to resent these yearly visits?  How would he fare on-camera?  What happens if six years in he decided to move to Tibet and take a vow of silence?  What if the Hollywood actors found a different gig that prevented their participation or they grew tired of the unique filming schedule?  Further…what sort of story would be told from year to year?

It’s clear from the finished project that this was a once in a lifetime sort of project and everyone involved knew it.  Yes, the quality of the acting from the boy (Ellar Coltrane) and his sister (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) waxes and wanes and it’s no surprise to learn Lorelei wanted out after several years because her ambivalence to the material is evident through several years of the process.  Still, there’s a sense of “realness” within a dramatized story that gives the film street cred.

Coltrane’s performance grows more affected with each passing year and having seen the film on two occasions I did cringe both times at some of the line deliveries that come across less as in the moment observances and more as words successfully delivered without much weight behind them.  Still, that glint of curiosity that shines so brightly in the early years never really goes away, making each age more interesting as Coltrane and his character start to come into their own and grow into themselves.

Ethan Hawke (Sinister, and Linklater’s famous trilogy comprised of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) plays a good dad and any urge to portray him as a deadbeat or explore why he separated from his wife (Patricia Arquette) is resisted.  He matures right along with his children, moving from the divorced dad with the cool car to a remarried man approaching middle-age with a new baby and mini-van in tow.

Though the film is called Boyhood the heart of the film is found in Arquette’s terrific turn.  We see her go from being a single mother to returning to college in order to complete her education, then into her second marriage to an abusive alcoholic, before moving onto yet another doomed-to-fail-marriage to an army vet.  Through it all her maternal instincts never fade; sometimes she’s the cool mom but mostly she’s the mama bear who puts her children first and herself last in any situation.

Arquette is uniformly excellent throughout the film but goes above and beyond in two scenes at the end of the movie which I believe are worth the price of admission.  It’s in her final scene that she not only sums up the whole point of what Linklater is getting at with striking clarity but also verbalizes a painful truth every parent must feel at one time or another.  It’s a thrilling, Oscar-ready performance from an actress I had previously struggled with liking.

Yes, the running time is over 2 ½ hours but I’ve seen 90 minute films that felt four times longer.  I can’t recommend it higher – the most satisfying of films released in 2014.  And if Arquette doesn’t win an Oscar, I’ll be terribly disappointed.

The Silver Bullet ~ Willow Creek

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Synopsis: From celebrated director Bobcat Goldthwait comes this edge of your seat horror that will make you think twice before going into the woods.

Release Date:  TBA 2014

Thoughts: Man, you can’t keep a Bigfoot down.  Though the legendary mystery has entertained many a youngster surrounding a campfire and inspired countless reality series hunting the big guy down, for me Bigfoot will always be best represented in the 80s comedy Harry and the Hendersons.  Director Bobcat Goldthwait directs this horror yarn and seems to be aiming for a more casual method of storytelling that might just maximize the tension while minimizing the goofball nature of the myth as a whole.  Though remembered first and foremost from his warbly voiced antics as an actor, as a director Goldthwait has put together several interesting films over the years.  I’ll track this one down.

The Silver Bullet ~ Boyhood

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Synopsis: The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.

Release Date:  July 11, 2014

Thoughts: Way, way, way up on my list of anticipated films of 2014 is Boyhood, director Richard Linklater’s 12 years in the making family drama that follows one boy from childhood to adulthood and all the growing pains along the way.  Though I’m slightly leery at the presence of Patricia Arquette (never been a fan), I’m more comforted that Linklater’s old pal Ethan Hawke (The Purge) is along for the ride.  As they showed in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, the director and actor have good instincts together and their continued collaboration is welcome.  It’s an ambitious project to be sure…but don’t forget that Michael Apted has been doing this in his groundbreaking Up series over the last four decades.

Mid-Day Mini ~ Cold in July

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The Facts:

Synopsis: When a protective father meets a murderous ex-con, both need to deviate from the path they are on as they soon find themselves entangled in a downwards spiral of lies and violence while having to confront their own inner psyche.

Stars: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell

Director: Jim Mickle

Rated: R

Running Length: 109 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review:  The first preview I saw of director Jim Mickle’s adaptation of Joe R. Landsdale’s grim noir novel gave me flashes of Blood Simple, the masterful 1984 debut film of Joel and Ethan Cohen (Inside Llewyn Davis).  With good reason too.  Both films are set in Texas and both have moments of shocking violence that come out of left field.  While Blood Simple would win in any battle royale between the two films, don’t let Cold in July fall off your radar because it’s a seething film with plenty of twists and turns…culminating in a finale that amps up the tension and takes no prisoners.

Mickle is a filmmaker to watch and while I haven’t yet published my review of We Are What We Are, his creepily effective cannibal film from 2013, I can tell you now that he’s batting 1000 in my book.  With Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepard (Mud) as two fathers brought together by a murder that turns into something more sinister and Don Johnson (The Other Woman) nearly stealing the show as a man with no scruples the stage is set for a dark crime drama that, though familiar on paper, entertains nonetheless.

Movie Review ~ Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: The uncompromising Tony and Emmy Award-winner is showcased both on and off stage via rare archival footage and intimate cinema vérité.

Stars: Elaine Stritch, Tina Fey, James Gandolfini, Cherry Jones, Alec Baldwin, Nathan Lane, Rob Bowman

Director: Chiemi Karasawa

Rated: NR

Running Length: 80 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: The Oscar winner for Best Documentary this year was 20 Feet From Stardom, the melodic and inspiring look into the lives of the back-up singers heard on history making songs.  It bested the haunting The Act of Killing which centered on the genocide in Indonesia during the early 60’s.  Both documentaries had striking value but sentimentality seemed to win out in the end.  I’m not sure that Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is going to wind up on any Oscar shortlist next year, but it possesses the same joie de vivre 20 Feet From Stardom had while holding up a painful mirror to the passage of time.

I liked the film so much I watched my screener twice, almost back to back, but talking with a friend who was less impressed later he pointed out that making an entertaining movie about Broadway’s irascible character Elaine Stritch wasn’t exactly hard work.  In fact, it’s akin to shooting fish in a barrel.  Almost from the first frame, Stritch is on fire, traipsing around the streets of NYC in her huge fur coat and comically large glasses that look like two see through dinner plates glued to two black shoehorns.

Over the course of a too short 80 minutes, director Chiemi Karasawa follows Stritch as she prepares for her final shows at the Café Carlyle, the famous NYC cabaret housed in the The Carlyle Hotel which Stritch has held residence in for several decades.  We meet people from her past through excellent archival footage and photographs along with several of the famous faces that our leading lady calls friends.

What makes the film so interesting is that we’re as aware of the cameras as Stritch is.  One of my favorite moments sees Stritch discussing her new show and without missing a beat hysterically dressing down a camera man that got too close for her comfort.  Brutally honest but directing the most fatally barbed comments to herself, there’s a refreshing honesty that comes naturally to her, making the octogenarian instantly relatable to any age group.

I’ve seen Elaine Stritch in her one woman show (Elaine Stritch: At Liberty) and thought I knew all when it came to her upbringing and career but this new documentary reveals yet another layer.  There’s a bit of a downward spiral Stritch is undertaking and though she’s giving it all she’s got you can tell she sees the very faint writing on the wall.  Perhaps that’s why she’s let the cameras follow her and capture some pretty vulnerable moments.

Overflowing with humor with a few dashes of pathos, it’s not the downer of a film I may have made it out to be.  I’d watch Stritch read the phone book so I knew I was bound to like this one – and if you’ve ever heard Stritch on a cast recording or caught her on 30 Rock you’ll probably wind up liking this one too.