Friday, July 9, 2010
(Note: There are what some would consider spoilers in this movie review. So if you want to see the movie completely "unspoiled," don't read any further!)
With my 100-calorie white cheddar popcorn bags safely tucked away in my purse, I was finally on my way to see the new documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I knew that if I didn't sneak in a quasi-healthy snack option with me I would either cave and buy the movie theater hypertension-in-a-bucket popcorn with extra squirts of buttery flavored cholesterol or I would sit there miserable listening to the torturous sounds of everyone else blissfully munching away.
The theater was filled with innocent-looking grey-haired ladies wearing cluster rings on their fingers and cardigan sweaters draped over their shoulders. But looks can be deceiving. Those little old ladies might be sweet, pie-baking grandmas, but by the sounds of their giggling and guffawing, they loved a raunchy Joan Rivers' vagina joke just as much as the gaggle of gay men sitting two rows down from me.
After approximately twenty seven previews and commercials, the movie opened with an extreme close-up of Joan getting her makeup on. Joan baring her naked face--flaws and all--set the tone for the entire movie.
Although Joan is innately funny, she stresses how hard she works to create her seemingly off-the-cuff humor. Jokes don't write themselves and she doesn't have a team of writers working for her. Never comfortable resting on her laurels, she is constantly writing new material and trying it out every week in a hole-in-the-wall New York comedy club. And every joke Joan has ever written is typed up and literally filed away in a card catalogue organized by topic. You never know when you might need to find a prostitute joke in a hurry!
Like Liberace, Joan lives in a gilded, glittering palace … or as she puts it, how Marie Antoinette would've lived if she had money. Gaudy? Yes. But could you picture Joan living in a three-bedroom, two-bath brick ranch-style house decorated with Rooms-To-Go furniture? I think not. Joan says that working her ass off to support her lavish lifestyle is worth it to her since she loves her "creature comforts." Not mention that she's also supporting a large staff, her charities, family members, and she even pays to send some of her employees' kids to private school. That's a heavy load for such a tiny lady to carry.
Joan also claims to have a deep-seated need to constantly work in order to feel fulfilled, loved, and valued as a person. She will not turn down any paying job no matter where it is or how undignified the work might be. Her biggest fear is an empty date book.
Joan is keenly aware that she has become the butt of plastic surgery jokes. And while I understand her critics, at least Joan freely admits to it! Just in home shopping land alone, there is a plethora of nipped, tucked, sucked, and injected hosts and spokespeople who refuse to admit that anything other than a magic potion (which is available for 5 easy payments of $19.99, by the way) melted the years away. No man has ever told Joan that she was beautiful. Apparently that insecurity coupled with the pressures of show business have fueled her fetish.
But all the plastic surgery can't stop the sands of time from slipping away. The older you get, the people in your life who can remember the big milestones and the silly inside jokes begin to dwindle until no one is left. Sharing your memories keeps the people you love and the memories you cherish alive in your heart and at seventy-five, Joan is finding that there just isn't anyone left anymore who can "remember when …" with her.
Unfortunately for me, the documentary didn't focus much on Joan's jewelry line or her QVC visits. I was hoping for some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits. Honestly, what would QVC be today if it weren't for Joan Rivers?
I will not call her an icon, a trailblazer, or a mentor since that would only piss her off. I will say that she is a brilliant comedy writer and performer who has made her own luck through a helluva a lot of hard work and perseverance.
Lightning might not strike often, but--as Joan would advise--if you want to get hit, you gotta stand out in the rain.