Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Director: Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg
Year Released: 2010
Rating: 3.5

Incisive documentary that covers a year in the life of confrontational comedienne Joan Rivers, her failures, her minor triumphs and her crazed quest to keep her days filled with Things To Do and Ways to Earn Money no matter the location or job (to say she whores herself out is an understatement). What's nice about this effort is how the filmmakers are free to show Joan in a negative light - her pettiness, her diva antics, her shameless self-promotion - to go along with the 'flattering aspects' and slanted material (but look, she does respect her fans! but look, she does deliver turkeys on Thanksgiving! but look, she does care about her daughter's health and she sure loves her grandson!). It also successfully uses Joan to highlight several major issues: the difficulty of maintaining fame, the need to be able to weather rejection, the fear of aging in a world that celebrates youth and the (continued) troubles of being a woman in a man's world. Ms. Rivers' face may be a grim cartoon, but her brain is as witty as it's always been, though I suppose I'm biased toward a woman that was so nice to me when I, as an 9-year-old, called out to her in Trump Plaza, "Hey, Joanie!" and she responded, "Hiya, kid!"