Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Hail the Queen: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

I first bragged about Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work on air in April of 2010 when I saw it at Hot Docs, and then in May 2010 when I saw it again at Inside Out. Well, here it is 2011 and I'm going to brag about this film again by reprinting my original review and my thoughts about the film now that it has been released on DVD.

The Film (original review from May 2010)
"This documentary is an honest portrait of perseverance and endurance. The title sums it up: Joan is a "piece of work" in the sense that she is different and edgy, and she is a work-a-holic. Her daughter, Melissa spells it out in the documentary when she says that all the comics she knows has a sense of insecurity that they never seem to lose no matter how famous they become. They all seem to long for the validation and attention they get from their audience. The film shows Joan stressing about empty calendar dates, working on her play, dealing with the business of being Joan Rivers, and, of course, doing her stand up. Her stand up is coarse, frank and extremely funny. This is the way she was back in her twenties, and this is how she continues to perform on stage in her seventies. Seeing her amidst the all-boys network at a George Carlin tribute, I couldn't help but wonder why, she has still not gained the accolades she deserves. She has paid her dues, and continues to do so, and dammit, I want more for her while she is still alive. I don't want to hear about her accomplishments after she dies. Let's hope this film will bring her the attention and and prestige she deserves." END

It amazed me that I still laughed out loud while watching the DVD. After all, I had already seen it twice. I credit my laughter to the fact that Joan Rivers is an artist (I'm not talking about the fact that she paints, and has a jewllery line). Joan Rivers knows how to craft jokes. She is genuinely funny, but being funny in life can't sustain a career in comedy. You must have incredible comic timing or your jokes will fall flat. You also have to be able to write jokes, and Joan writes constantly. People forget that she used to write material for other comedians/talk show hosts before being on Carson launced her into the spotlight. She has also written several books. She has a files upon files of jokes on any given topic, and she still pracitices stand up at little night clubs in New York to test her material. You think you want to do comedy? Can you handle a heckler and still still deliver the material that people paid to see you do? Joan's a work-a-holic, so I don't expect you to keep her pace, but can you do even half as much work as she continues to do? If you can, tell me who you are and I'll come see you.

Don't pidgeon hole Joan Rivers because she fits into too many boxes. Take her audience for example: young, old, gay, straight, rich, poor. Everybody can relate to what she has been through: her joys (daughter Melissa and grandson, Cooper), her sorrows (husband Edgar committed suicide), her work ethic (she will play any where for the money). At 76, she is still "opening doors" for female comedians, and she has not abdicated her role as Queen of Comedy. As is mentioned in the film, someone will have to take that crown from her cold, dead hands. Good luck to them!

The DVD falls a little little flat when it comes to the Bonus Material, but the flaws are minor. Most of the Deleted Scences should have remained deleted, and did we really need to see the TV Spots for the movie? The Sundance Q & A sequence is the best of the Bonus Material because we get to hear directly from Joan. One gaping hole in the DVD is what became of a long time friend that Joan had to break with during the course of filming. It's the only time she cried in the film, and her pain was palpable. I don't know if it was too difficult for her to talk about further, but I thought the question of "What happened to So and So?" would have been included in the DVD. But you're going to buy the DVD for Joan and her candid revelations about her life, so if she omits one tidbit, that's more than okay by me. I love you Joan!

DVD Details
Entertainment One Presents
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
A Film By Ricki Stern & Annie Sundberg
85 minutes / Documentary
14A – Coarse Language, Crude Content
84 Minutes
Release Date: Jan. 11, 2011


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