If you have come to think of Joan Rivers as nothing more than a grating red carpet character and bypassed this excellent and entertaining documentary as a result, reconsider. She is, to put it mildly, still brazen after all these years. When talking of being a sort of birth mother for the current caustic strain of female stand-ups, such as Kathy Griffin or Sarah Silverman, she explodes, " them." Classic Rivers -- half joke, half line in the sand, all R-rated. But then, she has been crossing lines of decorum from the beginning. Using clips and conversations, the filmmakers go back through the pre-Roe vs. Wade early years, when she made abortion a bit in her act -- euphemistically when she was ripping through the TV talk show circuit and unabashedly when she was onstage -- despite being told it was career suicide. Fear for the now 75-year-old stand-up is a blank calendar. The documentary captures her riff on the terror she finds in all those little empty squares. But by then you know it's no laughing matter. Work is life; not working might as well be death. This is one Rivers performance you don't want to miss. Related: Movie review: 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work'
Seth Keal/IFC Films