By Scott Weinberg (reprinted from 4/25/2010 -- Tribeca Film Festival)
"Life is mean," says legendary comedienne Joan Rivers during one of the more heart-touching moments of the new documentary about a year in the gal's life, and she's more correct than she knows. Her statement was in reference to a gifted but evidently forgotten NYC photographer, who is now sickly and wheelchair-bound, but who certainly brightened up a bit when Ms. Rivers stopped by to deliver a Thanksgiving turkey. "Life is mean" meant "that woman deserved better," and I think the same could hold true for Ms. Rivers -- a true trailblazer in many ways, but these days she's mainly a "B-level" star who's better known for her plastic surgeries than her impact on the world of American comedy.
This rather fine documentary reminds us that, yep, even those "old" celebrities we don't have much use for anymore are actual people. In this case, it's a very smart person who realizes that she's well past her "fame expiration date" in many ways, but remains intent on grabbing some of the spotlight, claiming a little respect, and (at 75 years old) still trying to make people laugh. Some may worry that a documentary like this will exist as little more than a brown-nosing puff piece, and that's a fair piece of skepticism, but the truth is that Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work captures many fascinating sides of its subject -- and not all of them are flattering.