Last night I went to New York's LGBTQ film festival, NewFest, which was hosting its centerpiece film, the Joan Rivers documentary, Piece of Work. In Ricki Stern's intimate portrayal of this hard working comedian, Rivers's extreme vulnerability is shown. Desperate to be liked, a workaholic, who will even do appearances on QVC to sell her jewelry at 3am, she is a 77-year-old grandmother, charity worker, drag queen, and one woman machine who supports a whole entourage and even sends their children to private school.
Rivers is "the type of person that will stand out in the rain, day after day, because she knows that lightning can strike," her agent artfully remarked, and it certainly did with this one. The career highs, the lows, the insecurities, it's all laid out on the table.
Sure, she shows what she wants you to see, but you can't help but feel that it's not just for the cameras: her life is an act, and she has become the consummate actress, something she has always aspired to be. The gags can become repetitive, but they are always delivered with verve, and her art of self-depreciation and frankness never fails to be refreshing. It is often remarked that comedians are the most depressed people but you do not get a sense of this from Rivers, just extreme sensitivity. Overall a must watch.
To read our profile of Rivers written by Michael Musto, click here.