Monday, January 3, 2011

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Joan Rivers is an excellent choice to be featured in a documentary as she's led a thoroughly interesting life, is both an endearing and quirky personality, and as this piece shows has many emotional layers well worth delving into. What the makers of this doc do right is not dwell solely on the sad or dark aspects of their subject as would be so easy to do and is the path too often taken when chronicling aging celebrities not necessarily in the prime of their career; while Rivers' anxieties and her personal tragedies are addressed, so are her many successes and trailblazing path to stardom. For the most part the heart of the film centered on Rivers in the modern day and examining her addiction not so much to fame as performing as well as her insecurities about not being taken seriously as an actress, but the archival footage of her early performances and her re-telling of her professional and personal history and how the two entertained probably intrigued me the most. I would say the movie fails when it loses focus and meanders in the middle and towards the end; it's definitely impressive just how much Rivers travels at her advanced age and I understand why the directors wanted to show her grueling schedule, but it went a little too long and dragged things off course in my opinion. The conclusion both seems to come out of nowhere and again take too long, possibly because there was no good, logical jumping off point, but that is of course the risk you run with documentaries. Overall, more good than bad and definitely an interesting, entertaining piece, if one that felt not entirely expertly made or completely refined, but Joan Rivers is a compelling and entertaining enough figure to raise the work up.

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