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79

Generally favorable reviews - based on 34 Critics What's this?

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8.1

Universal acclaim- based on 23 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work takes the audience on a year long ride with legendary comedian Joan Rivers in her 76th year of life. Peeling away the mask of an iconic comedian and exposing the struggles, sacrifices and joy of living life as a ground breaking female performer. The film is an emotionally surprising and revealing portrait of one the most hilarious and long-standing career women ever in the business. (IFC Films) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. It's one of the best documentaries ever made about show business, about what it really consists of and what it demands.
  2. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    88
    One of the smarter, more unexpectedly touching documentaries of the year, and I recommend it to you whether you love Rivers or loathe the very thought of her.
  3. 88
    There's not a timid, sympathy-begging minute in it. Even better, you leave Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work with the exhilarating feeling that the lady is just hitting her stride.
  4. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    80
    Remarkably, thanks to this documentary, we hope for the sake of this smart, vibrant, apparently good-hearted woman, that the invitations keep coming.
  5. An entirely sympathetic portrait of the artist at an advancing age. That's right, artist – and to a generation that knows Rivers only as a screeching red-carpet provocateur or as an overknifed monstrosity, that revelation alone is worth the cost of admission.
  6. 75
    It's all about personality and Joan's inimitable style, which fills every second of its 84 minutes.
  7. The insecurities that seem to feed Rivers's often angry humor -- and that have left her face looking like a mask frozen in horror -- are left unexamined.

See all 34 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 8
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 8
  3. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Dec 16, 2010
    9
    I was surprised of the movie not being recognized by the Academy of Documentary. I guess they don't want anything to do with Joan Rivers, and that's the whole point of the documentary. The doc started out with Joan Rivers' lowpoint of her career (when she's already 70 years old), and it progresses with Rivers working her way up again. The film demonstrates how the once comedic icon and well known star turned into "a piece of work". With her comedic talents blending with her sad emotions, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is a snub that the Academy missed out on. OscarBuzz: NONE, that's the point! Expand
  2. Dec 14, 2010
    9
    Both intimate and heartfelt, this is a hilarious documentary that details Rivers' dedication to comedy and success. Rivers is a national treasure, and hopefully she will finally get the respect she deserves. It's a shame this didn't make the Oscars' Documentary Feature shortlist. Expand
  3. Aug 12, 2010
    8
    This documentary works. It takes a subject that I had little to no interest in and a) piques my interest while b) making me want to know more about this fascinating individual. Expand
  4. Sep 17, 2011
    8
    As a person who has never been a Joan Rivers fan, much less a Joan-and-Melissa Rivers fan, this documentary of a year in the life of the most irritating comedienne on the planet is surprisingly, uhm, UN-irritating. Joan is the most human I've ever seen her and, like the movie Comedian by Jerry Seinfeld showed, the makeup of a comedian is rooted in insecurity and a sad, self-loathing existence that they feel trapped in. I'd never related why we saw George Burns, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, etc. continuing to publicly perform their comedy until near-death. We still see it in people like Don Rickles and, as is painfully displayed here, Joan Rivers. On one hand, the viewer has to admire her raw talent and endless drive, but on the other hand, one wants to just hug her and say, "uhm...go retire. Go do something you've always wanted to do." That's just it, though. She IS what she's created. And that IS what she wants to do, even as each year looks sadder and sadder. She owns her existence, though, and while even aware of its flaws, she continues to power through. If you've seen her honest dialogue with Louie this past season and was moved by the honesty of it, this documentary will blow you away. Expand
  5. Sep 19, 2010
    8
    Gut fear grabs us in the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. At 75, Rivers, one of the most successful and outrageous comediennes of the century, is roiling. Her career of ups and downs once again hovers at zero. Billy Sammeth, her manager of 23 years, doesn't return her calls. Her datebook holds a sea of empty pages.

    Candidly the diva of barbs shares her secret: she's very insecure. The film opens with a close up of Rivers' waiting in her makeup chair. Despite numberless nips and tucks, her morning face is ravaged. How does Rivers begin each day? Meditating? Exercising? No, she goes straight to makeup.

    Rivers sees herself as actor first and comedienne second. Comedy is just something that came along. Yet she makes us laugh and cringe throughout this year in the life study directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg. "Go f*ck yourself!" is the star's refrain. She vows not to retire. Rivers' favorite place is onstage as audiences applaud wildly. It's that love that she lives for.

    The camera follows Rivers as she embarks on a string of C List gigs. Just as Rivers manages to be annoyingly endearing, she says or does something repulsive. That's her style. All the while she plans and finagles. She finishes her book Joan Rivers: Men are Stupi... And They Like Big Boobs. Soon she sets out on book tours across the country.

    Slowly, Rivers rides the wave again. The book parties generate buzz. She agrees to star on Celebrity Apprentice, sure that she will be the first to go. Ironically, her daughter Melissa is eliminated first. Melissa notes that there is competition between mother and daughter, although her mom may not see it. Rivers says she never recommended showbiz to her children. Rejection and humiliation are non-stop.

    In one of the film's most honest, vulnerable moments, Rivers tells a joke referring to Helen Keller. A heckler sounds off. His son is deaf, and he resents the joke. Rivers defends herself, visceral, swearing. "This is comedy," she screams. An uncomfortable silence from the audience slowly breaks into cheers.

    At a celebrity roast, Rivers is skewered for her age and extensive plastic surgery. Yet she's also revered as a groundbreaking star. She confesses she's grateful to be the center of attention, even to be invited at all.

    When the comedienne hosts Thanksgiving dinner for family, friends and neighbors, she reveals a grounded and generous side amidst the glitz of her Manhattan apartment.

    Rivers' career was always a family business. That ended in tragedy with the suicide of her husband Edgar, who was embezzling her fortune. She never remarried. Later she and Melissa made a movie about the suicide. It helped them heal immeasurably, she says.

    Finally a tearful Rivers decides to fire her wayward agent Sammeth. Now the unstoppable star faces another challenge. In June, Sammeth filed suit against Rivers for unpaid commissions - and for skewering him in this film.
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  6. j30
    Sep 22, 2011
    7
    A very entertaining movie about a very entertaining woman. It didn't particularly make me like Joan Rivers in any way, but she's funny and as the title suggests 'A Piece of Work.' Expand

See all 8 User Reviews