Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) -vs- The September Issue (2009)
Joan Rivers has lived a long life full of public peaks and valleys characterized by a seemingly indomitable spirit that is more than matched with an undimmed, keen intelligence and canny rebound. This documentary follows this remarkable septuagenarian through a year of huge risks. It doesn’t even touch on her breakthrough QVC savvy or her single-handed revolutionizing of the celebrity fashion world; we see her stand-up, still remarkably raw and fearless and funny. We travel onstage with her; her non-stop schedule takes her to the most unfortunate dives in the remotest of towns and to huge venues more suitable to her stature. Through it all, she tells us everything and nothing; we learn much about her, but ultimately, the mystery of another person remains there just within and just beyond our grasp. We get hints as to what exactly makes this particular human dynamo tick so long and so loud, but like her very familiar and forever-morphing face, the secrets of her undeniable pain and struggle, while glaringly right there in front of us, remain hers. We want to reach out to her and thank her, to hug her, to provide her a moment’s peace, but alas…this life force goes it (unstoppably and perhaps unreachably) alone.