Xeitgeist ~ the spirit of the event
by Melinda Darlington-Bach

Cry Me A River ~ Joan Rivers; A Piece of Work

Joan RiversOne of the more unusual highlights of the 2010 San Francisco International Film Festival, screened in the coveted closing night slot was the new documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Forget everything you think you know about this legendary comedic talent who has become uber famous due to her excessive trips to the plastic surgeon over the years.

Opening commercially in wide theatrical release June 11th including the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, this engaging exposé offers a rare look into the inner life of Ms. Rivers. We see how she is fueled by anger and bitterness surrounding her choice of profession and some of the people she has encountered along her climb to the top. This pop icon will surprise audiences with her often expressed melancholy and ultimate vulnerability.

Bravely agreeing to give the terrific directors, Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, complete unforgiving access to her daily life, what emerges is an honest cinema verite, creating a truly moving film.

What is made painfully clear is how her life off the stage becomes obsessive as Ms. Rivers fight tooth and nail to stay over scheduled and current. The film also addresses the excesses of the entertainment industry. On a lighter note, we are taken on a tour of her New York apartment (a former ballroom) which is lavishly decorated like a small, opulent palace at Versailles.

We also see her unflagging generosity as she pays for her entire staff’s children’s private school tuition willingly.

Not all maudlin in tone, interspersed throughout the documentary we see Joan the happiest, at work being outrageously irreverent and so funny. One of the more profound and compelling moments is the emotional connection Ms Rivers has to the importance of her being taken seriously as a highly competent actress. Ms. Rivers enriches the film immensely with her own narrative and moving commentary interwoven with her archival footage from her legendary early years. There is a widespread belief that all brilliant comics are all somewhat tortured human beings. We now can see who could possibly be the poster child.

~ Marin Arts Magazine, June 2010