I first heard of this documentary in the local paper last year (?) when it was shown at the SundanceFilm Festival in Park City, where it was very well received. I am only a casual Joan Rivers fan – I don’t know her stand-up at all and I’ve never read any of her books – but I do like her scathing repartee on the red carpet and Fashion Police, and I enjoyed her recent guest spot on Louis CK’s show,Louie. This documentary, which follows Rivers around for a year, shows a side of Joan never seen before, starting with the opening credits where we see her WITHOUT ANY MAKEUP. I found the movie to be interesting and quite touching, in fact: an intimate look at this incredibly hard-working woman who seems compelled to keep working, who worries about money (since she supports innumerable family members, plus her large staff, plus her own life of luxury), who has fought hard for everything she has and opened doors for women comics, who is fiercely protective of her family (but not so much so that she won’t occasionally use them as stand-up material). One of my favorite scenes was when Joan and her grandson were delivering Thanksgiving meals to shut-ins. They met a woman suffering from MS who used to be a photographer and whose tiny apartment was stuffed to the gills with negatives, slides and photographs. Joan Googled the woman when she got home – Flo Fox – and was literally moved to tears as she read her story, remarking on how sad it was to see such a beautiful, edgy, bohemian artist struck down by the disease. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work shows Rivers’s humanity and grit, that underneath the drag queen clothes and layers of plastic surgery beats the heart of dedicated, loyal fighter.
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