This documentary follows one year in the life of Joan Rivers, who sees herself first and foremost as an actress, with her life as a comedienne/writer just an extension of being an actress. Now at age 75, Rivers has faced her ups and downs in her forty plus year career, the year leading up to filming being a down compared to what she would have wanted, which is a calendar full of engagements with several engagements each day. That want is in part to support her opulent personal lifestyle, but is more a need to bolster her own sense of self-worth as a basically insecure person who is probably best known now for her overuse of cosmetic surgery rather than her professional work. She feels that Kathy Griffin, who she admires, is now getting all the engagements she would have gotten in her prime. During this year, Rivers is seen going from engagement to engagement, some big - such as a Kennedy Center Honors for George Carlin, a double bill with Don Rickles in New York, and her own celebrity... Written by
"A Piece of Work" is a very apt subtitle for this film, since it sums up rather succinctly the driving force behind Joan Rivers' careershe is a woman constantly on the lookout for her next piece of work. Perpetually aware of just how difficult it is to hit a moving target, Rivers never seems to slow down. At the age of 75, she keep herself busier than many working actors/comedians 1/3 her age. Ricki Stern's film chronicles Rivers' career, from her beginnings on "The Tonight Show" through her stint as permanent guest host, her devastating decision to leave that show for her own talk show (a decision that created a rift between Rivers and Johnny Carson that never healed), her husband's suicide, and her struggle to recover from it both personally and professionally. Rivers' daughter Melissa is of course a big part of this film, and her presence creates perhaps an unintentional stark contrast to Rivers herself. Joan is the consummate hard-working, smart, talented, honest professional entertainer, while her daughter, who claims to have chosen a career in show business, actually possesses little or no talent and has forged a "career" in entertainment simply by virtue of her status as Joan's daughter. If Melissa Rivers were not Joan's daughter, I doubt she would be able to find any work at all in the entertainment industry. Be that as it may, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is a penetrating and entertaining documentary about the life and career of one of the funniestif not THE funniestwomen in the business.
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