Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sydney Film Festival - Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work


Joan Rivers may be notorious for her plastic surgery predilection, but the reigning queen of comedy shows an unvarnished honesty in Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg’s revealing documentary. A shrewdly intelligent, if fatally insecure workaholic, Rivers is no doubt in complete control of her image here, but the film still allows audiences to read between the lines of this self styled piece of work.

For Australian audiences and particularly younger viewers who did not grow up with Rivers bawdy brand of comedy, Stern and Sundberg balance an incisive study of the 75 year-old (who reluctantly celebrates her birthday on film) with a chronicle of her beginnings on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Carson was the man who first proclaimed her a star, before black listing her when she dared establish her own show, while details of River’s marriage to British television producer Edgar Rosenberg and his suicide upon the failure of The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, provides some affecting context to her modern day tribulations with her decidedly fair weather manager Billy Sammeth.

It’s not without significant irony that Rivers cries poor while living in the most opulent surroundings. “This is the way Marie Antoinette would have lived, if she had money,” the comedienne quips, well aware of her own staggering overheads. There is no doubt Rivers identifies with the Queen’s infamy, while lusting after her prevailing celebrity; frighteningly blank diary pages being the only thing standing in her way.

Published by Street Press Australia
Australian release date (theatrical): TBA




***UPDATE As Kate mentions in her comment below, the Slate Culture Gabfest discussion on this doco is well worth a listen. Click here to check it out.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Loved the discussion about this film on the most recent Gabfest, too. Interesting stuff - she is a complex character!

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