INTRODUCING, SELMA BLAIR

The poor dope—he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool. —Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard

Selma Blair wanted to be a writer. Then her English teacher saw her act and told her, “You’re an actress.” Not the encouragement she wanted to hear, but Blair ran with it and found herself in front of a camera. Then came 1999’s Cruel Intentions, and Blair broke big. But, as she recounts in the new documentary, Introducing, Selma Blair, “I knew I would also play supporting roles.”

But Introducing, Selma Blair, from director Rachel Fleit, isn’t about Blair’s Hollywood career; it’s about Blair’s private and public struggle with multiple sclerosis (MS), which she made public in October 2018. Soon after, she became an activist for the disease, and her Hollywood career took a supporting role in her life.

Filmed primarily in 2019, Introducing, Selma Blair is at once a portrait of an actress living in her tucked away Studio City home—Blair calls out both Grey Gardens and Sunset Boulevard—and a record of living with MS. Not everyone diagnosed with MS suffers the same symptoms, and as of this writing, a cure has not been discovered. There are treatments, pills mainly, and stem cells. Blair tries both, and the latter provides the bulk of the narrative’s back half.

It’s not easy watching someone in pain, and there are moments when watching Blair struggle with simple tasks is heartbreaking. Fleit could have turned off the camera, but part of what makes Introducing work is that she doesn’t. It also makes the humorous moments, and there are many, all the funnier. W. C. Fields once claimed that dying is easy; it’s comedy that’s hard. For Blair, the inverse is true. Quick with a quip, she can make a mundane moment like crossing a New York street hilarious. As for dying, it doesn’t look easy at all.

Introducing, Selma Blair opens with Blair applying her Norma Desmond make-up and ends with her floating face-down in a pool, wearing a dress her mother coveted. It’s dawn now, and they must have photographed me a thousand times. But Blair didn’t end up like Joe Gillis or Norma Desmond. Not even Max Von Mayerling. Her Hollywood ending has yet to be written.

Introducing, Selma Blair is currently playing the SXSW Film Festival.

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