Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is one of the biggest surprises of the year. The Documentary so perfectly hits it on-the-head that even the ultimate Perfectionist in which it centers upon herself would approve lovingly. Many of us known Rivers as a Comedienne. Cruel, plastic, brash, mean, infuriating, funny. Anyone watching this film from by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg will get an eye-opener of a look at Rivers' storied rise to fame, wondering why it is that at age 75 she still works as hard as she still does.
I mean, yes we all love Betty White right? Joan Rivers too has been hard at work for many years and still relevant. Many of us fail to acknowledge Rivers for her contributions to women in Comedy. In seeing clips of her earlier work where she attacked subject matter deemed controversial in her day, like Abortion and Pregnancy on stage as part of her Routines, do we see that influence she has had on the face of Comedy. It is safe to say that there would be no Sarah Silverman or Kathy Griffin today if it weren't for Rivers. Griffin even acknowledges this on camera.
To this day, Rivers still says "yes" to gigs at dive clubs, hawks Jewellery on QVC and is willing to sit through the humiliating experience of being insulted by younger fellow comedians on The Comedy Network's The Comedy Roast. The Bitch is tough as nails and knows that in order to continue living her lifestyle (compared to that of The Queen by her Manager Billy Sammeth), everything comes at a cost. She's relentlessly looking to fill her Itinerary and takes offense to being credited as having "paved" the way for women in Comedy. She clarifies that she is still working and "paving" the way for them.
Stern and Sundberg pace the film brilliantly. There is never a dull moment and just the right amount of tension is built to recruit you on Team Joan without your even realizing it. We see Rivers worry about the reception of her self-penned, autobiographical Play Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress in London at Leicester Square Theatre. We also see her stress about whether or not she will win NBC's Celebrity Apprentice knowing the potential it would have on re-launching her career at her age. We see her getting heckled on stage at a Casino at Wisconsin after poking fun at Deafness; she snaps back defiantly of course calling him a "Fucking Idiot". We also learn how her husband and writing partner Edgar Rosenberg left her and her daughter Melissa behind after committing suicide. She overcame the odds and paid off the debt she was left with - a real Survivor. And she's still here.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is a poignant piece of Cinema. You will walk away feeling inspired and at the same time find yourself reflecting on your own work ethic. A fascinating portrait of a fascinating character. Grade: A+