Thursday, January 13, 2011


I've been trying to see a whole bunch of documentaries to get ready for the Oscars - some that might be nominated for Oscars, others didn't make the short list, but were an interesting topic nonetheless.  My goal is to post short reviews of all of them before the Oscars, but we'll see.  Here's the first one:

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work This one is seriously eye-opening, and not just in a plastic surgery sense.  Joan Rivers must be the hardest working woman in show business.  I know that moniker gets handed out to almost anyone these days, but it's definitely got to be either Joan or Betty White.  The documentary shows clips of her past stand-up, particularly on TV getting her start in the business, through her marriage and the end of that and Joan's famous relationship with her daughter Melissa, right up to her most recent stint (and WIN on "The Apprentice).  Throughout, you see her in her day to day life - celebrating holidays, hiring/firing staff, getting to gigs, getting jobs, filming QVC/HSN, etc.  And then the third frame is bits of her current stand-up routine as it relates to her life - love, sex, Melissa, fame, etc.  She's very upfront about having her feelings hurt about being a joke, with people laughing at her not with her, particularly about all the plastic surgery.  I never found myself saying anything like "well, she brought it on herself" because what she complains about is really that she was no longer taken seriously for a stupid reason - her humor didn't change, she didn't look like a cat woman, she didn't kill anyone, and she was never particularly attractive to begin with so why did it matter?  That argument kind of worked on me - personally it might have been how much time she spent on Hollywood Squares back in the 80s, but maybe that was just the work she could get so she did.  If you have even the tiniest interest in pop culture, this will grab you and fascinate you.  Particularly if you're a woman or if you care about how women have risen through the ranks of Hollywood.  Check it out. 3.5/5 stars/lambs.

Coming tomorrow: Exit through the Gift Shop


simoncolumb said...

I bought this for sarah at christmas because she is a big joan rivers fan and both of us, when we watched it, loved it. I think Joan Rivers is a fascinating person who doesn't take herself too seriously - but then again knows that that, in itself, is an image. She just knows - and loves - the business so much! Very tempted to put it in my top 10 of the year.

I think the whole women + age + celebrity thing is interesting too - it says how dominated the media is by men.


Jess said...

I loved her sense of timing that always seemed to work. She's just got such a sense of awareness about herself, her comedy, and how the world perceives her. Too bad it didn't make the short list.

Frankly, My Dear said...

Piece of Work completely changed my image of Joan Rivers. I had grown up thinking she was just the rude red carpet woman. It was great to learn about her coming up in the business and how hard she's working just to keep working. Great doc.

The Mad Hatter said...

Ditto what Scott said. In an age where so. many. people are merely "famous for being famous", it was enlightening to see a person who wanted so badly to work so hard to live the life she wants.

I've always said that the best docs are the ones that engage you even if you don't care about the subject matter, and by that measure this doc worked particularly well for me.

Great review.

Buttercup said...

I'd give this at least a "4." I really found it engaging and I also laughed a lot. I didn't expect a lot, but was wrong in my initial expectations.