Saturday, June 26, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is a counterpoint to "Exit Through the Gift Shop" as perhaps the best non-artistic nonfiction film of 2010. Of course, as a friend says, it's "well-done," but no, as people have said, "conventions being broken" here. Like my friend said, this is the "Tyson" of this year, and it's even better than that film. As my friends said, Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg have "helped you get know Joan Rivers." Watching her on television will never be the same after seeing her here, which is, as has been said, marvelously behind-the-scenes, pairing incidents from her life with related bits of her stand-up comedy.

Joan Rivers is continually thinking that she is going through hard times, whereas in the public eye, as my friend said, she's "extraordinarily well-to-do" (as Vonnegut would say). She pulls people in who want to let go and laugh about incredibly out-of-line things designed to make you shake your head. As Carrie Rickey and other critics said, "the film follows her through a year in the life," through countless performances (which makes the ending exactly spot-on in its routine feeling), through trying out her play in Europe, and also back into her past. Like as was said before, we see into her (as opposed to what Michael O'Sullivan would say), and how she wouldn't be damaged if you said she was bad at comedy, but if you made a comment about her acting, she would fall apart. This was illustrated with how she at one point moved out of New York as a result of terrible buzz about a disastrous play. Also we see her relationships with her suicidal husband (not a "madly-in-love" relationship but one that works; one that she felt she had to reenact in a fiction film), her daughter who she tries to be overprotective of but often apparently fails, and also her manager who she finds as her "only link" to her past but who always hates to be around in trouble. Her brushes with famous people (a rank that she is a part of) are interesting, such as with, as my friends said, Johnny Carson (when he had her on 20 times and then "blacklisted" her from NBC after she left his show; the film sees her getting back on that network with "The Celebrity Apprentice") and Jack Lemmon (who thought a line of hers was so edgy that he exited a show early and told her it was "disgusting").

Drawing similar praise and using a similar technique as "The September Issue" and "Valentino: the Last Emperor," "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is an "entertaining" (as others have said about this film and those other two films) film that perhaps (I'm not sure if she was even acting for the camera, which would be even more interesting) gives you an idea of what Joan Rivers is like, which is, as my friend said, tender on the inside while keeping sharp tongue. As I believe was said before (by Rex Reed and others), this is one of the most substantial 84 minute films ever made, and although at times it feels long, it's all good. Even at 75, she wants to keep working even if she doesn't have to, yet to quote the film, maybe she will continue to "open doors" as she did before for people such as Kathy Griffin, doing more things than just pocketing the cash for enduring a Comedy Central Roast, and maybe inspiring people, although her job may be a little too hard for most folks. A


Stephanie said...

You've got 3 "A" rated films in a row! I've never been particularly interested in Joan Rivers -- talk show type personalities just aren't my thing. But this sounds interesting.

Nick Duval said...

Yes, this was a magical, magical weekend. I saw three excellent films. Don't expect this that often :). This is usually the time of year when this happens to me. Still, I think that 2010 > 2009 in terms of the movies, and I think I may be getting a little more receptive. Oh, and Joan Rivers wasn't my thing really either, but this was very in-depth and it really worked. It is a little vulgar, but still quite good.