Watch this trailer:
While Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was released last year, it was shot over a year starting in 2008, the year she turned 75 and her career was in a lull. Winning The Celebrity Apprentice and Fashion Police were still over the horizon and this documentary shows the legendary comedienne (whom we learn believes herself an actress more than a comic) struggling to stay relevant as she hustles for work and tries to mount a one-woman play she's written.
As an unvarnished look at how even the rich and famous still have to slug it out, the documentary is quite effective, but as a retrospective of her life's previous 74 years, it's annoyingly thin at times. While there are plenty of vintage TV appearances shown and some testimonials, there isn't enough context for What It All Means and if someone thought that her inspiring Kathy Griffith is something to brag about, well... More This Is Your Life type content wouldn't have hurt.
Still, it's hard to deny the old broad isn't working for her living. We get to see the crappy conditions she occasionally has to work in and how she handles a heckler(!) who is offended by a Helen Keller joke. (Is it still too soon for those?) The disappearance of her long-time manager happens, but we don't get his side of the story.
Ribald and raunchy - do we really want to hear a grandmother discuss anal sex and how her daughter should've done Playboy and held out for more money and "show her [kitty]" - Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work works best at showing the soft person under the hard, mouthy exterior.
Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.