Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 26
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Joan Rivers, at 77 years-of-age continues to present her comedy act wherever she can get a booking. She continues working for at least two reasons: first, she needs the money to maintain her lavish lifestyle and second, she says she is the happiest when she is on stage performing.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work — Bio-pic Paints Empathetic Portrait of Everlasting Comedienne

Kam Williams

Nowadays Joan Rivers has become the butt of cruel jokes about face-lift disasters, as opposed to being the one dishing the dirt on other divas. “It comes back at you, doesn’t it?” she wistfully reminisces in this riveting bio-pic. Still, at 77, she continues to ply her trade, never turning down a booking however humble the venue.

As Joan explains in this documentary — that alternates between hilarious and dead serious — she continues to work out of a combination of financial need and competitive drive. When her husband Edgar Rosenberg, who was also her personal manager, committed suicide in 1987 he left her broke and saddled with a mountain of debt. Luckily, Joan has an incomparable work ethic and has managed to survive, and even thrive, in the wake of her tragedy. Additionally, since she likes limos and other trappings of wealth, she is driven to continue performing in order to maintain her luxurious lifestyle.

Co-directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work offers an intimate peek at a celebrity who most of us dismiss as a freakish product of plastic surgery. However, this empathetic portrait humanizes its subject by revealing the sensitive side hidden under that permanently frozen visage that is no longer capable of showing any emotion.

Nonetheless, Joan exposes her feelings through her words, as when she calls her daughter Melissa “a stupid, effing c***,” or informing her staff that, “I’m lonely, who’s going to f*** me tonight?,” or hinting at the source of her addiction to elective surgery by saying that “No one wants an old woman,” or “No one ever told me I was beautiful.”

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not she’s joking, given how she freely admits that, “The only time I’m truly, truly, happy is when I’m on stage.” Her tendency to cover her vulnerability and pain is evident when she is off the stage and she delivers one punch line after another.

A sobering description of a showbiz comedienne who has been performing non-stop since ’66.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated R for profanity and sexual humor. Running time: 85 Minutes. Distributor: IFC Films.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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