Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work Ricki Stern

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work Ricki Stern
For anyone who wasn't old enough to catch Joan Rivers during her heyday as Johnny Carson's go-to fill-in, the raspy voiced diva is just that plastic-faced lady kissing celebrity ass on the Oscar's red carpet. If you fall into this category (as I do), you'd be forgiven for wondering why the hell anyone would want to spend 90 minutes watching a year in the life of such a seemingly vapid woman. Director Ricki Stern quickly dispels lingering doubts in the first scene of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Following Rivers through the cavernous halls of a tiny NYC comedy club, she quickly establishes why people cared about Rivers in the first place: she's fucking hilarious. Rivers was groundbreaking in her time, breaking down doors and pushing the boundaries for female comedians, causing Carson to proclaim that she would be a big star. Today, Rivers remains the reigning Queen of comedy, something she's quick to point out many times throughout the film. At 75-years old, she's as full of vitriol as comedians a third of her age. But A Piece of Work does much more than familiarize Rivers with a new generation of fans. We see the other side of her, the one filled with all the insecurities and self-doubt of any comic, warts and all. But most of all, we discover a woman who is painfully self-aware, who readily speaks about her weaknesses and shortcomings in front of the camera. We're also shown a woman who remains driven to succeed after 50 years in a business known for chewing up and spitting out female talent at a blistering pace. The DVD comes with the requisite deleted scenes and director's commentary, as well as a hilarious Q&A session Rivers and Stern did for the doc's Sundance premiere. It's rare that we're given such intimate access to a celebrity and rarer still that we find out that celeb is such a complex, yet insecure, person. (eOne)