Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) Directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg. With Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers.
Joan Rivers never says no to anything. That’s the overall feeling you’re left with after witnessing this documentary glimpse into the seventy-fifth year of a remarkable life. Showing not the faintest sign of slowing down, the Rivers of today is depicted as a woman with extravagant taste who’s at her happiest with a full diary of work to fill up a busy day. Commendably, what this film also shows are the vulnerabilities that often go undocumented with high profile personalities like hers. Rivers’ fear of a bad review, or the sudden burst of anger toward a heckler striking a raw nerve paint a picture of a woman constantly fighting fires in her life while going off and looking to start some of her own. The film covers her rise to prominence on ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson Show’ and her fall from grace after leaving it.
While it never dwells on the choices she’s made in terms of her appearance and her plastic surgery, the film is all the better for it choosing instead to attempt more of a personal insight into what makes this impressive woman tick. Snippets of her biting stand-up routines offer laughs around the unveiling and sadness of some of her more personal experiences and the lasting impression is one of admiration towards the work ethic and hard-nosed refusal to accept rejection amid an often changing world to which she cleverly adapts and manages to fit in. Go Joan. 4/5