Monday 28 Jul

TJ Mayes - "When Love Comes Down"

’50s era rock ’n’ roll had been long overdue for a rebirth. Thankfully, the stockpile of capable luminaries has not been in short supply over the past few years. 

07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Boare - "playdatshit"

The world is in the midst of an electronic music renaissance, and you find most of this boon of producers laying claim to the club-friendly, bass-dropping variety, holing up in the the free-flowing world of hip-hop beatmaking or pitching their tent on the out-there, boundary-pushing EDM camp.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Broncho - "Class Historian"

Broncho has never been hurting in the hook department. The success of the trio’s 2011 debut, Can’t Get Past the Lips, was predicated mostly on its ability to marry melodies with kinetic guitar riffs and anarchic energy. Yet we’ve heard nothing to the degree of pure pop catchiness on display in “Class Historian,” the new single from Broncho’s upcoming sophomore album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Manmade Objects - Monuments

No one wants to be forgotten; everyone wants some sort of legacy, a mark they leave behind as they exit this life for whatever lies beyond.

And for as long as there has been death, there have been monuments — whether austere or understated, abstract or concrete, prominent or tucked away in private — erected by the ones they loved to assure that remembrance, at least for a time.
07/15/2014 | Comments 0

Admirals - Amidst the Blue

Sometimes it helps to not be very good.

Some of the best albums and artists were born out of happy accidents owed to varying degrees of early suckage — the perfect note or chord for a song found by missing the one you are aiming for, failed mimicry of an idol bearing something entirely new and great instead.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' is...

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' is an extraordinary, bittersweet documentary about comedy, career and insecurity

Phil Bacharach July 29th, 2010

Without overt manipulation, the film reveals Rivers' complexity with a subtlety that is lacking in Rivers herself.

It would have been easy for the makers of "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" to take a by-the-numbers approach to their subject. Among the pioneers of edgy stand-up comedy " she joked about "putting out" and abortions long before such topics became fodder for female comedians " Rivers was instrumental in paving the way for a generation of funny ladies. "Piece" could have slapped together archival footage, grabbed some obligatory "she's an icon" interviews with Rivers' contemporaries and imitators, and called it a day.

But Rivers is a workhorse, and so is this extraordinary movie. The documentary makers had the distinct advantage of chronicling a tumultuous year in her life, but, then again, the brash 77-year-old comedienne appears to thrive on challenge. She is in constant motion, determined to do whatever she can to reinvent herself " whether that vehicle for a comeback be plastic surgery or competing on "Celebrity Apprentice."

Even if you're not a fan of Rivers, it's hard not to find her compelling. In and out of the limelight over four decades, the actress-turned-comic was such a "Tonight Show" favorite that Johnny Carson made her his permanent guest host. That close friendship crashed when Rivers left to take on her own late-night talk show on Fox.

The new job did not go well. Her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, the show's producer, clashed with network brass. When Rivers refused Fox's insistence that she fire her husband, the network canned the couple. Rosenberg committed suicide, leaving the sudden widow with debts and a career in shambles.

Directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg follow Rivers through a grueling year which she previews a one-woman stage play, fires her longtime manager and endures a dizzying schedule of small-town gigs.

Without overt manipulation, they reveal Rivers' complexity with a subtlety that is lacking in Rivers herself. She has a strength seemingly at odds with her need to be loved. Rivers' daughter, Melissa, provides a candid assessment of the insecurity she sees an endemic to most comics: "Laugh at me, laugh with me " just laugh."

The doc does supply a fair amount of laughs. The filmmakers don't linger on the down times, and Rivers is too self-effacing and possesses too much showbiz savvy to indulge in despair. She shows off her file cabinets crammed with 40-plus years of indexed jokes, and she gives viewers a tour of her jaw-droppingly lavish Manhattan penthouse that she says "is how Marie Antoinette would've lived if she'd had money."

The episodic structure mines some wonderfully telling moments. Delivering Thanksgiving meals to hard-luck cases in New York, Rivers meets a onetime avant-garde photographer, Flo Fox, who is now a shut-in. Later that day, Rivers researches her online and comes across an old TV interview of the artist as a young, vibrant woman who had begun succumbing to illness.

"Life is so ... mean," Rivers says, ruefully shaking her head.

It is a statement of genuine compassion, but you also get the impression that Rivers isn't just talking about Flo Fox. --Phil Bacharach
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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