Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)
There’s a moment late in Joan River’s somewhat biographical doc where she’s telling a random offensive joke at a comedy club, this time about Helen Keller. An irate audience member pipes up, “I have a deaf son,” and chastises the 75-year-old comic of legend for the offense. She goes into a defensive position and argues that it is the point of comedy to make life bearable, even the horrors and pains that we know no other means to suffer through. This awkward moment of clarity sums up Rivers’ life fairly well: tenacious, volatile, and genuine. She turns pain into inspiration. She’s fought long and hard to get where she is in the comedy world and she will have to be dragged away kicking and screaming. When fans compliment her on being influential, Rivers tiffs that she’s still influential and isn’t ceding her spotlight for any young female comics. The documentary follows Rivers on a upswing in her career, notably winning a 2009 edition of Celebrity Apprentice. But this woman will work any gig no matter how small. She fears that if she stops she’ll be forgotten. Part determination and part desperation, this standard documentary showcases the abrasive and dynamic personality of Joan Rivers (you even get to see that famously refined face without makeup).
Nate’s Grade: B