Elaine Stritch at Liberty

New York Premiere

USA | 90 MINUTES | English |


Put her on your list of things to be grateful for, right between Noel Coward and Sondheim -- both of whom had a hand in turning this wisecracking Sacred Heart Convent graduate from Detroit into a Broadway legend. In Elaine Stritch at Liberty, D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, and Nick Doob document the closing night of Stritch's Tony Award-winning production of the same name. By cutting between the performance, rehearsals, and Stritch's hotel room downtime, we're given a window into the creation of this one-woman musical memoir -- and we learn that onstage or off, Stritch is the same acerbic, authoritative, terrifically funny woman. When she begins a bit about a Broadway clunker she starred in called Goldilocks, Pennebaker and company cut back to an early rehearsal with George C. Wolfe and John Lahr at The Public Theater -- What are we trying to say with this anecdote? What's driving this stage moment? -- then we return to Stritch onstage, finishing the anecdote with clarity and vigor. It's an instructive moment in stage dramaturgy. But that's not to say we're watching some dusty or academic doc. Stritch's stories are so good they're worth recounting nightly, and her bouts with alcohol and loneliness add unexpected poignancy. Best of all, her scotch-and-cigarettes voice still thrills, and her stage attire -- a silky button down shirt met mid-thigh by black stockings, reveal that she's still got the best gams in the business. Early in the film, Stritch, mid-vocal warm up, bellows to the back of an empty Broadway house: "I love it I love it I love it!" Our thoughts exactly.