December 07, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Current Status
In Season
84 minutes
Limited Release Date
Joan Rivers
We gave it an A

The opening shot of this loving look at the ups and downs of being Joan Rivers is an uncomfortably tight close-up of the 77-year-old’s stretched-taffy face, sans makeup. The message is clear: We’re about to see an unvarnished portrait of the brash and ballsy, prickly and profane comedian. And do we get just that. In her signature squawk, the woman who crashed the men’s-only comedy club chronicles her highs (being anointed by Johnny Carson in the ’60s, winning The Celebrity Apprentice) and lows (the suicide of her husband Edgar, enduring crummy Indian-casino gigs in Wisconsin). Rivers’ resilience and work ethic are inspiring — it’s one of the best films (fiction or non) of the year. Now folks who don’t live in cities where docs play in theaters have the chance to see what the fuss is about. Even if you have seen it, though, the disc offers one reason to check it out again: Rivers’ no-holds-barred, F-bomb-laden commentary on the EXTRAS. Watching old footage of herself doing stand-up while pregnant, Rivers calls herself a ”fat little pig” and jokes, ”I was so pregnant that Melissa’s feet were hanging out.” Seeing her 9-year-old grandson rest his head on the shoulder of her fur coat, she cracks, ”You’re lying on the sable, you little s—!” She apologizes for knocking Kathy Griffin in the film, but not for taking a swipe at Ben Stiller. Only when her late husband is shown is she at a loss for words. ”I can’t watch this,” she says. A-

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