This is one of the most depressing movies ever made – which is odd, considering it is a documentary about a comedian. And depending on your tastes, Joan Rivers is an extremely funny comedian.
So why is this film so depressing? Well, there are two reasons. First, Rivers comes across as a monster of self-pity. Wallowing in insecurity and a constant fear of losing her stardom, she seems utterly unaware that she has been among the most successful stand-up performers of our times. With a lavish Manhattan apartment, a limousine and chauffeur, and a staff whose livelihood is supported by her star power, the 77-year-old Rivers is among the very few comedians who has been able to stay on camera, snag book deals, and fill large venues for more than four decades.
Rivers snarls that she was never supported by the critics, claiming that they have refused to take her seriously as an actress. Oh? It seems that both the star and the creators of this documentary forgot about her well-regarded dramatic supporting role in the 1968 film “The Swimmer” starring Burt Lancaster, her well-received 1988 performance in Neil Simon’s New York stage production of “Broadway Bound,” and the Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations she received for her 1994 play “Sally Marr and Her Escorts.” If she wanted critical acclaim, perhaps Rivers should have actually bothered to pursue a real acting career instead of shilling cheap jewelry and making fun of well-dressed stars at award ceremonies?
Second, this is one of the sloppiest researched biographical documentaries I’ve seen in ages. Among the items missing from her life story: Rivers’ first marriage to James Sanger (which lasted six months in the 1950s), her brief attempt at Off-Broadway theater in the early 1960s (including a role in the play “Seawood” opposite another unknown named Barbra Streisand), her successful books and comedy albums, her many years of highly rated guest appearances on variety programs and game shows, her work as the director and writer of the critically slammed but commercially successful 1978 comedy film “Rabbit Test” and her five-year run as the host of a highly successful daytime talk show (the film only focuses on her disastrous late-night talk show on the nascent Fox network). Instead, Rivers is constantly whining about a life-long fear of being considered an irrelevant has-been. Huh?
Seriously, I wish that I had her money and her career! You’d see a biographic documentary about a damn happy person, not some chronic whiner who is crying all the way to the bank.