Monday, January 31, 2011

Under 250: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Sometimes, a documentary comes along that actually manages to show you a subject you thought you knew and dismantle it before your very eyes.  Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is one such doc.  Where lurid tabloid drivel was rendered boring in I'm Still Here, with Joan Rivers we're given a tragicomic, utterly fascinating portrait of a seriously self-made woman.  Too recognized now for her excessive plastic surgery and red carpet hosting gigs, the filmmakers here have (to use a tired jumble of cliches) stripped Rivers of her garish face paint and gained exclusive access to the tears and kvetching laments of a clown.  What we're shown is a showbiz archetype, a hard-working figure who is ever-persistent in her battle to remain relevant, to keep her name in the press, and to never fade into obscurity or be the willing victim of a poorly timed punchline.  She's vulgar, vulnerable, and tough as nails; a quick witted force to be reckoned with a rigid work ethic that will command your respect whether you like her or not.  Joan Rivers taps into the human side of celebrity, and while the reality is a touch on the sad side, Rivers absolutely does not want your pity.

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