Monday, January 31, 2011

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: Grade B


Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)

Joan Rivers; Directors Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg.

This documentary follows Rivers for one year, her seventy-fifth, as she tries to get performance dates, performs, and frets over her career and her relationship with her daughter. She is chronically anxious about getting engagements because, she says, she needs the money, and that’s not surprising, considering how she lives. She has an enormous apartment in New York City with more square footage than my house, and it looks like a replica of the Palace at Versailles. It is truly bizarre.

She seems sharp for 75 years old, although the film is edited to give only limited access to her life. She relates a superficial autobiography revealing only the mundane: marriages, children, and showbiz gossip, trials, and tribulations. We learn about her mainly by watching her behave in this film, and what we learn is that she is an ordinary, neurotic, insecure, slightly scatterbrained person, and not a particularly interesting one, except for the way she wastes mountains of money (with no explanation). She is a great comedian though, and I would have much rather watched an hour of her performing or at least talking about how she writes. Still, you have to give respect to someone who is still doing standup after a half century.

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