Saturday, June 12, 2010

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (2010)

Directed by Rick Stern & Annie Sandberg


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. June 11, 2010 9:50PM


"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is a great and fascinating new documentary that follows the pioneer comedian for one year in her pursuit to, once again, try and revitalize her career. Joan Rivers has just celebrated her 75th birthday and like many who have been in show business for a long time, she has had many up and down periods and is currently trying to pick things back up. While having no interest in retiring, Ms Rivers puts just as much energy in finding a job as she does while performing. She is willing to do anything for work which include, according to her, commercials for adult diapers.

Ms Rivers began wanting to be an actress and only started doing stand-up as just a way to pay the bills before getting an acting gig. She had done a play on Broadway and was savagely torn apart by the critics, so Rivers retreated to become a full-time comedian. She was good and worked her way up, doing many television shows before getting a shot at doing "The Tonight Show". She began by doing writing for the show and with the help of a recommendation by Bill Cosby, she was eventually given a chance to do her act on the program. Johnny Carson, who was the host at the time, loved her and had her on many times. She became very popular and soon Ms Rivers was announced as the permanent guest host for the show. Her husband, Edgar, who was also her manager, arranged for her to get her own talk show on a rival network and doesn't hesitate to take this golden opportunity. However, things quickly go downhill with her relationship with Mr. Carson, then with her husband, the television show and her career.

We watch as the comedian travels from one lousy job to another that is beneath her, interacting with her rabid fans, reluctantly getting involved with the reality television show, "Celebrity Apprentice" and a roast in her honor while dealing with problems within her business staff as well as her prickly relationship with her daughter, Melissa. For a woman of her advanced years, she really has a lot of stamina. Just listening to her crazy schedule made me exhausted and I'm almost half her age but she is determined and loves her work. There is no subject is off limits to her as long as the joke is funny but off stage, which tends to be common among professional comedians, hides a fragile and very insecure person. Ms Rivers has never considered herself attractive which leads directly to all of the plastic surgery she has had over the years. It is a shame because she certainly wasn't unattractive before but now her face is kind of like a bizarre mask, which is apparently her idea of beauty.

"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is really a terrific and very amusing film. You can't help but to cheer Ms Rivers on as she swallows her pride and dignity while continuing to single handily make people recognize and remember that she is still here and just as vital and funny as all of the younger comedians out there today. When I was leaving the theater, I overheard someone say that this film should be required viewing for aspiring comedians to show them exactly how hard it really is and to make sure this is something they really want to get in to. I would amend that and say it should be required viewing for anybody wanting to get into any part of show business.