Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work Movie Review
In the 1960s, Joan Rivers broke new ground as a stand-up comic and TV host, but 20 years later both her career and personal life took a dark turn. Still, she never gave up, and through sheer willpower has continued to be a constant presence on television, stage and of course at red carpet events. Although today she's perhaps more well-known for her extensive plastic surgery than her sharp wit. For this documentary she gave the filmmakers unrestricted access to her life for a year, and what we discover is that she's pretty much the same off camera as on it.
This shouldn't be any surprise, since her lacerating wit is so outrageously quick that it couldn't be scripted. She also lives a luxurious life, which she really works for; at 75 she has the energy of a teenager. Over the course of this film, she travels to Edinburgh to launch a new play, which then transfers briefly to London, where she decides it's probably never going to work in New York. She takes part in, and wins, Celebrity Apprentice. And her colleagues hold a celebrity roast in her honour.
Early in the film Rivers comments that her biggest fear is a blank diary, and her constant reinvention has guaranteed that she has stayed working. The documentary is so intimate that we see beyond her acerbic comments to her personal insecurities. Without being sentimental, the filmmakers capture the ongoing effects of her husband's suicide in 1987 and her deep love for her daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper.
Not only is this a revealing look at a year in the life of Joan Rivers, but it also takes us behind the scenes of the business itself, with the managers, assistants and agents swirling around, constant criticism from fans and journalists, and both competition and respect from colleagues. And it also explains why so many celebrities never leave their homes without makeup.