Coming not long after the splendid Val Kilmer documentary, “Introducing, Selma Blair” provides more deeply personal access to an actor in the throes of a health crisis, following her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2018. In this case, the focus is less on her career than her struggles and treatment, with the goal of assisting others facing similar challenges.
It’s an intense experience, one whose focus is undeniably stirring but which leaves certain aspects of Blair’s life and resume somewhat underdeveloped.
“Now I just want to help other people feel better,” Blair explains, during an interview in which she at times has difficulty speaking, wrestling with her sometimes uncooperative limbs and seeking to care for her young son.
Marking the first feature-length film for director Rachel Fleit, the cameras follow Blair as she undergoes stem-cell treatment, an approach with promising results but occasionally fatal consequences. It’s a bruising process that begins with chemotherapy, revealing the toll on Blair’s body while she shares her fears and feelings of mortality through a mix of humor and tears.
The somewhat ironic aspect of the title is that the film probably should have devoted more time to introducing its subject, including the intriguing role she occupied as a self-proclaimed supporting actress, endeavoring to make Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Michelle Gellar look good in “Legally Blonde” and “Cruel Intentions,” respectively, before serving as “Hellboy’s” pal. A few more voices from that period would have helped as well.
Although she expresses few regrets about her career, Blair mentions her early desire to become a writer, having befriended Carrie Fisher, who successfully made that transition before her death in 2016. Blair also discusses her relationship with her mother, Molly Cooke, who died last year.
At its best the film captures Blair’s considerable courage — including her willingness to let the world share in her experience — and her recognition that using her profile to showcase that might be the most valuable contribution that she can make for others facing such conditions.
In that sense, “Introducing, Selma Blair” captures these latest chapters in her life, but in its structure shortchanges the full breadth of her story.
“Introducing, Selma Blair” premieres in select theaters on Oct. 15 and Oct. 21 on Discovery+.
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