"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review

12/20/2010 Posted by Admin

"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"

DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review

Directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, Rated R, 84-minutes.

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

In many ways, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" plays like a companion piece to last year’s "Anvil: The Story of Anvil." Directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg examine the life of an influential, yet aging performer in an evolving public arena. As Rivers turns 75, the film shows her fears and strengths as she once again strives to reinvent herself.

To say Joan Rivers has had a turbulent career is an understatement. The comedienne was a star on the rise in the late-'60s and early-'70s, a star that has since tapered off considerably. Her dependency on plastic surgery, as well as her bombastic personality, alienated her critics, in spite of her vast influence.

It’s an old story--the ones who pave the road don’t get as much fanfare as those driving on it--and Rivers knows this all too well in the film. She opens her empty calendar in hopes of filling it with performances, but realizes it would be easier if she were Kathy Griffin.

Still, she presses on.

As the film opens, we see her struggle for jobs--she is not one to sit around waiting for them to come to her. Her new play begins casting and then there's rehearsals; she has two new books out; and her act is as vivacious as ever. She sees what holds her back (age, sex, reputation), but she's a fighter and won't go away quietly.

It's her war on age that's partially to blame for her troubles. Rivers’ advocation of plastic surgery made her both the poster child for it, as well as the butt of its joke. She became a caricature of herself, or at least that’s how her public saw it.

Still, in spite of her obsession with changing (or hiding) her real appearance, Rivers is honest, self reflexive and, of course, funny throughout the film. Her quick wit and biting commentary offer an interesting perspective on “The Career.”

Likewise, Stern and Sundberg litter the film with footage of her act, which remains as observant and subversive as ever, breaking up the film’s more painful moments with humor – a strength that’s kept Rivers going all these years.

It’s hard growing old in a youth-oriented world. Her age keeps her from packing the same punch of her heyday, and even though her act is still impressive, she finds herself in a difficult position.

Rivers deserves more, and "A Piece of Work" delivers it.

Grade: A-

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