As displayed by her effortless wit and charm in the opening seconds of Introducing, Selma Blair, the actress’ own self-awareness has been one of her pillars of strength as she battles multiple sclerosis (MS). Always aware of her supporting actress stance in Hollywood – the star noting as such throughout – the Legally Blonde alum is now the star in her own story, this at-times heartbreaking documentary serving as a reintroduction of sorts for an actress whose star quality was, and still very much is, evident.
In the face of a chronic illness that leaves her sometimes unable to speak or control her movements, Blair remains incredibly, bravely open for director Rachel Fleit. There’s a purposeful lack of self-consciousness throughout, something that remains incredibly relatable and intricately fascinating as we accompany Blair through the lightest and darkest of moments; the rawness in which she discusses her mother is haunting, presenting a relationship that was emotionally stimulating, for better or worse; “My mom tethered a darkness to me”, she states at one point.
Whilst Introducing… touches on Blair’s own reflection of her career and how MS first uncovered itself for her, a staple ingredient chronicles the stem-cell transplant she undertook in order to rehabilitate her immune system. The potentially fatal consequences of this procedure are detailed, with Blair herself commenting on having an out-of-body experience midway through; the calmness at which she relays this story suggesting she’s already made peace with her diagnosis.
So much of Introducing… is a heart-wrenching watch, both because Blair is so open and honest about the pain she’s experiencing – sequences of her crying in a hospital bed, wondering how her young son will cope after hear death, are tough to view – and because us as viewers feel so helpless. The jovial opening minutes where she’s describing her symptoms, making fun of her amateur make-up skills as she dresses in a manner similar to Sunset Boulevard‘s Norma Desmond, transform within seconds when her speech pattern starts to waver and the evident frustration she feels at having no control can’t help but devastate.
Given how incredibly open Blair is throughout, it feels like a slightly missed opportunity to not delve a little further into just how isolated her existence is now being away from the spotlight. Though photos throughout suggest she had celebrity acquaintances, and Cruel Intentions co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar appears to be present at a house gathering, Blair comes off like someone not at all affected by the “Hollywood” machine – she even says herself that she was never the greatest actress she could be, seemingly content with playing second fiddle – you can’t help but wonder however of the effects of such a retreat.
Less a discussion on the medical specifics and more on how Blair is navigating this new chapter in her life, Introducing, Selma Blair is still fascinating material. The fact that she is as candid as she is, remaining a beacon of light in the face of such darkness, only reiterates how charming and distinct an actress she is.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Introducing, Selma Blair is screening as part of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, which is being presented virtually between March 16th and 20th, 2021. For more information head to the official SXSW website.