Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work details comedy icon's winning spirit 

click to enlarge Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Provided)
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  • Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

After the Sept. 4 death of comedy powerhouse Joan Rivers at age 81, this movie has again jumped to the top of the “Popular on Netflix” queue, and with good reason.

The documentary, filmed as the comedian turned 75, follows her through the sometimes depressing and arbitrary world of the entertainment industry. Defeat isn’t an option.

Her career flashbacks include her early years as a co-host on Johnny Carson (after Bill Cosby convinced Carson to have her on his show), and how she was blacklisted from the network after she left to start her own talk show in 1986, which flopped. The upside? She broke a barrier when she became the first female late-night talk show host.

The film starts as she’s wrestling with the final episodes of her work on season eight of reality game show The Apprentice. She won.

This sets the tone for the entire film: What isn’t she willing to do to win? At 75 years old, the answer is nothing.

Her life is a pratfalls and rebounds, and her heart-rending humor often is born from her own acerbic, self-effacing experiences. She does bar shows in venues where plaster is falling from the walls to small crowds who seem to laugh at the discomfort of it all. She plays the huge benefit shows, still mercilessly pushing the bounds of near-sadistic humor. There is no shame: People still laugh.

One night, she takes a flight to Palm Springs for a show, only to board a flight afterward for a show in Minneapolis. Her stamina is unmatched, unfettered.

Rivers was a pioneer, went where other women couldn’t (and sometimes shouldn’t) go, a troublemaker with a relentless spirit and the plastic surgery (which she often joked about) that hid her emotional scars, but eventually contributed to her death.


Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

2010

Streaming, DVD, Blu-Ray


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