45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is thoroughly enjoying. She has always been outrageous and I knew what to expect. I got what I wanted - a time to laugh and cry and sometimes do both at the same time. Joan is not only a genius, but amazing in her drive and fantastic comedic timing. She thinks on her feet and not only has the guts to say what people keep deep into their psyches, she brazenly lets us look and laugh and not be afraid to peek at life's unfairness. Joan is a fascinating woman, who knows what she wants -she works constantly at 77, keeps herself on the go - I was tired watching her hectic schedule. Joan does not feel alive unless she is working - and she will work anywhere at anytime. Although she complained of not saving money for her old age, she makes plenty and spends it freely on herself and others. Her generosity to staff and thoughtful Thanksgiving dinner belie her unrelenting drive to support a lush lifestyle. She is a workaholic and has kept her brain from "rusting" out, but may "wear out" by constant travel, gigs, writing material, and never stopping trying new venues. Her plastic surgeries and botox injections are discussed as a matter of course and are part of the show business routine she accepts. At the beginning we see her without makeup, and as she is painted up and prepped it is amazing a 77 year old can look that good. She is not afraid to bare her feelings (she give background on leaving Johnny Carson show and her husband's suicide), her foibles (Am I a Diva? All comediennes are angry?) and keeps hacking away at "sacred cows" so we may laugh with her on life in blasphemous joy - it is nothing but cathartic.
Joan is exquisitely complex, smart (reads voraciously), honest, generous, kind and anything but ordinary. What a joy it is to see her full throttle on the big screen.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Waited patiently for this movie on DVD as it was not in wide release in the Chicagoland area. It's a stunning personal look at a wonderful person, Joan Rivers. I saw her in the airport and in first class on my flight and she was witty, fun, posed for photos, and never once seemed put off by the attention. Not at all a diva, she exemplifies an ethos that is now forgotten: hard work at a craft you love will pay off, and the fans are to be relished, cherished and treated as human beings. Joan was this in real life, and her charm and sincere heart comes through in spades on this excellent documentary. Her insecurities about her looks, her lack of true male love in her life (she and Edgar were more of a business relationship as portrayed in this film), her geographic distance from her only child Melissa, and her tireless work ethic are sparking gems in this well-paced movie.
Before leaving the airport, we had a lay-over, and Joan shopped alone in some of the stores in the terminal, dressed to the nines, hair perfectly coiffed and absolutely charming and gracious to everyone from the shop clerk to the janitor waxing the floors. The DVD is inspirational for the way to treat others. Joan truly does practice this even off camera,
Thank you, Joan. You're not only a comedy icon, you are a deep and thoughtful person, and it's my pleasure to get to know you.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I've honestly never really been a fan of Joan Rivers. Although I love stand-up comedy, perhaps Joan's public persona as a plastic surgery cautionary tale, red carpet pest, and daytime talk show host had blinded me to her comedy accomplishments. I started to see her in a different light recently when I saw her roast on Comedy Central, which made me curious to check out this acclaimed documentary.
After seeing this film, it's hard not to like Joan. At 75, Joan Rivers has clearly gotten to the point in her life where she's no longer interested in apologizing for herself or trying to be anyone she's not. The film offers an honest portrait of a real woman who is made up of passions, flaws, idiosyncrasies, insecurities, relationships, emotions, and all of the other complicated, messy things of life. Joan comes across as ambitious, hardworking, frank, big-hearted, generous, passionate, and, of course, very funny. She also comes across as needy, vain, grasping, opportunistic, self-pitying, and self-absorbed. In a nutshell, she comes across as human.
Probably one of the most fascinating and insightful theories that the film perpetuated about Joan is that she is less a comedian than an actress playing the role of a comedian. Born without perhaps the beauty or sexual charisma to be a theatrical diva, Joan created her comedic persona in order to attain the attention, accolades, and ability to connect with an audience that she so clearly needed, and, at age 75, still needs.
39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
On this day of Joan River's death, take an hour to watch her documentary. It is a record of one year in her life . She shows us her true self, warts and all.
Much of what people say about Joan is about the calibre of her jokes. She often said what we wanted to but didn't dare. I liked her. Her staff loved her. In this documentary we see her staff. The man and his wife who took care of her home, her many assistants, her financial people, her hair person, her make-up lady and on and on. Her manager is no longer with her. Truthfully he looked a little sleazy. However, what mattered the most to Joan was her daughter, Melissa and her grandson, Cooper. They will miss her immeasurably. She was beloved by many of her peers, and her work stands for itself. This documentary will be an eye opener for many who did not know her. She is a woman not to be taken lightly.
This year in her life is a wonderful sight. What struck me was her work schedule. She hated an empty page, to her it meant no one loved her. A full page if events made her happy. Flying from coast to coast, and all the little places in-between. She came from a loving home, but as we all know her husband committed suicide, and this was an issue for her and her daughter, Melissa. However, her success meant a lot to many. She put many of her staff's children through private school. Who does that?
A friend said that he can see Joan Rivers and Robin Williams wherever they are, laughing uproariously over each other's dirty jokes. A wonderful memory.
Recommended. prisrob 09-04-14
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
At times during "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" the viewer wonders whether a few of Joan Rivers' deadliest enemies somehow managed to sneak into her shows and her private life, for the express purpose of putting together a montage of her most unflattering moments. But no, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, the makers of this relentlessly personal film about a comedian who has had more than her share of ups and downs, were given the apparently limitless access they had by Rivers herself.
The bulk of the film takes place during the last two years, during which Rivers works on an autobiographical play about her life starring herself, which flops in London; appears as a contestant on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" with more success: she wins; and does a string of live appearances, most in out-of-the-way and sometimes schlocky venues. Interspersed with the present reality are flashbacks to the past, most notably her triumph as the permanent guest host of Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," followed by her greatest career mistake, an ill-fated move to launch her own talk show in direct competition with her former mentor's. Her daughter Melissa (as unflatteringly photographed as the star, incidentally), and longtime manager (whom Rivers fires during the course of the film), as well as some of her comic colleagues, weigh in with their own observations: one that particularly sticks in the mind is Melissa Rivers' comment that all great comics are "damaged people."
Damaged Rivers may be, but ultimately she disarms through her absolute refusal to make excuses or to rest on her laurels. In her late seventies she is still frenziedly searching for the next gig, the next comeback; one imagines her dying onstage, doing what she cannot stop doing. For what it's worth, this particular viewer, who has always found her hilarious, was also touched by this unvarnished film portrait.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2010
Love Joan Rivers or not, there is no denying the incredible tenacity of this powerhouse show business legend. Although I firmly believe that the directors could have done a far better job in editing this film to show more insight into Ms. Rivers' amazing life, this film does do a good job of showing healthy glimpses inside the brilliance, vulnerability, softness and relentlessness of my all-time icon. The film goes far beyond the comedy that has made Ms. Rivers a household name for 40+ years and shows us the real person, with and without makeup and, frankly, I loved what I saw in every frame. This inspirational woman forged ahead when no one (and I mean NO one) believed in her, both at the beginning of her career and following her husband's suicide, to create a niche for herself and, as she mentions, turned herself into an industry. I recommend this film to anyone who believes, or wants to believe, in the power of human will and self-actualization, as Joan Rivers personifies both. I also recommend this film to anyone who appreciates the one-of-a-kind humor that will have you laughing beyond the credits. This is not just a piece of work but a piece of show business history and you'll love it, as I did.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2013
Joan Rivers passed away on September 4th, 2014 and for every person who held her in the highest regard as myself, this came as an altogether shock. If we will all take the time to listen and laugh at all she added to our lives (in particular this honest Blu-ray of her life), I feel it would be a tribute to an unreplaceable woman, a star in her own right and a woman, mother and grandmother that gave our lives so much humor, joy, and laughter. "A Piece of Work" shows Ms. Rivers with all her personality, her helpful nature while visiting, and talking with people in New York City and the love and drive she had for life. Joan Rivers was truly a pioneer for women in comedy and she will always be so missed.
"Can we talk?"... As Joan Rivers takes the stage in her own docudrama, you are immediately drawn into her private conversations. She boldly starts confronting the issues presented in her life; the comedy and love of performance that defined her while she stared at the empty spaces on her calendar's booking schedule. With an unshakable drive and a heavy focus on staying on top, Ms. Rivers gets right back into the game without batting an eye.
She is discussing her life here, letting us know how she got her big break. That vehicle was 'The Tonight Show' Starring Johnny Carson. She took the opportunity to blow away the audience with new and fresh comedy and a special intention towards women and issues that mainly went unsaid, until then. She was brazen, honest, acerbic and so extremely funny that Carson promised her that she will "Be a star". Her injected pieces of stand-up bits are unapologetically raw, irreverent and hysterical...I have viewed this so often and still find something even bolder than the previous time.
"All stand-ups are innately insecure" adds her daughter, Melissa, to this discussion. Joan got down to the real nitty-gritty here and completely targeted her own emotional vulnerability. The issue is her husband's suicide, the crushing pain she was obviously still carrying, and her relationship with Melissa through all of this. When asked if she is angry, she counters, "If you're not angry about things then what are you talking about?".
The ambitious workhorse that was Ms. Rivers would not tire. The pacing of the documentary and her own life is consuming as she takes on a city after another city and a gig after another gig. Joan asks for no apologies either, as another show is what drove her.
Altogether shocking, altogether real, altogether Joan's "Piece of Work"...
A true trailblazer; she will never be replaced nor forgotten.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work", subtitled "A Year in the Life of a Semi-Legend", follows the comic through her 75th year, remarkably still an eventful time for a woman who's been in show business for 50 years. To start the year, Joan's career seems to be in the toilet: Her appointment book is mostly blank, and "last year was a very difficult year -I was playing...the Bronx at 4:30 in the afternoon." But his year, she is rehearsing her autobiographical play "Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress" and taking it to the UK. She will be taping "Celebrity Apprentice" with her daughter Melissa, roasted on Comedy Central, paying tribute to George Carlin at the Kennedy Center, touring whenever she can, and filming this documentary by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.
Joan Rivers is a workaholic. Her agent Larry Thompson says she has "a maniacal fanaticism to succeed." At 75 years of age, she wants every hour of every day in her appointment book to be filled, she wants multiple shows per day, and she wants to resurrect her career for the umpteenth time. And she succeeds -with great effort. This woman has the energy of a teenager. I could hardly believe it. She has the single-minded drive of a person obsessed. And she's tough. She's also very, very funny. Still. We get to see some of her old jokes through archival footage, which show that she was always shocking for her time. She did abortion jokes in the 1960s. I have to hand it to her: She had guts, and the jokes were great.
For the most part, Joan speaks for herself in "A Piece of Work". Her play provides a nice opportunity to explore the earlier years of her career. She talks about The Ed Sullivan Show, how Johnny Carson changed her life, and her husband Edgar's suicide. But the focus is on Joan Rivers today, not in the past. She's works constantly to live in the style she likes. And she doesn't like to be called an icon; she's not dead yet. We see both her personal and professional lives for a year, and there's not much to separate them, as her work has always consumed her. I expected candor from Joan Rivers, but I didn't expect her to be this honest. I guess she knows that there's not much point in being less than honest, and that makes this one of the best films ever about the entertainment business-and certainly one of the funniest.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
i liked this documentary a lot more than i thought i would. although one would think that joan rivers with all of her plastic surgery is a woman denying the aging process, that is not true. she was well aware she was 75 the year it was made. she let the filmmakers be with her whenever they wanted to for a solid year. it is evident that to this day she is a trooper who is going on and out on her own terms. she considers show business a terrible business but all she ever wanted to be was on stage. she lives for it and always has.
she even unflinchingly covers the time leading up to her husband's suicide. when one of her tv shows tanked, he couldn't handle it and killed himself. her daughter and grandson are also in the documentary and say whatever they like as well. interestingly, her daughter says that although her mother did not want to compete with her when they were together on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, she really doesn't think she can help herself. she is always ON, always moving forward...literally, the show must go on.
this is also an excellent portrait of aging in the show business environment. rivers manages it but few have her guts of steel to do it so unsparingly.
one fan makes thr mistake of heckling her at a stand up gig. you really see what this woman is made of, she absolutely takes control and eviscerates him but in a way no one can complain about later. i guess if you do want to survive a show biz career long range, it would be better to be like rivers than unlike her.
this is another film from HBO, virtually a guarantee of quality.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
About three years ago Joan Rivers was approached by two young film-makers to do a documentary on her life. The only thing Joan asked for was that the producers go all out for the film: she wanted to bare her soul and to show the public who Joan Rivers really was.
We all know Joan Rivers: foul-mouthed, witty, funny, campy, plastic surgery extraordinaire, but few of us know the real Joan. Sometimes it's common for people to mistake celebrities for not being real people with real problems and this wonderful documentary throws the lid off that misconception. We see Joan as being a real person with problems, issues, nightmares, and insecurities.
I have been following Joan's career since the early eighties when she became Johnny Carson's permanent guest-hostess and I have seen her battle her share of ups and downs. Where most celebrities would have called it a day by doing themselves in with drugs or alcohol if they went through what Joan encountered, Miss Rivers battled her domons and issues head on. During the film Joan discusses the suicide of her late husband and its obvious that although it's been 23 years since his untimely death, Joan still has not recovered. She also mentions her daughter Melissa with whom she now shares a warm and caring relationship, but not before they went many months not talking to each other as Melissa blamed her mother for her dad's death. Melissa is also interviewed.
We witness the intense insecurities that has plagued Joan for years, everything from going broke again to not being able to work and make an income. As a viewer we observe how hard it is to see Joan being the greatest female stand-up comic and being loved by millions, only for her to feel completely alone and possessing that inkling that no one loves her and will not be there for her.
Critics are raving over "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work". This is due to the fact that Joan is not afraid to bare her soul and to show the public who and what she is. I have always loved and admired Joan Rivers: after seeing the film in a packed theatre, not once, but three times, I love and admire her even more.
Joan Rivers has written two outstanding autobiographies called "Enter Talking" and "Still Talking". They are both out-of-print, but look around for them as they are extremely well-written and they give you an insight into this legendary performer.