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(Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is now available on DVD and Blu-ray through IFC Films. It opened theatrically in New York City and Los Angeles on Friday, June 11, 2010, before spreading to more cities in the following weeks. Eventually, it will become available On Demand. Visit the film’s official website to learn more.)

No matter what you think of Joan Rivers—obnoxious, groundbreaking, hilarious, annoying, piercingly honest, grotesquely plastic—Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s documentary is sure to make you see her in a different light. At the very least, you’ll never doubt her devotion to her profession ever again. While it might sound strange to compare Stern and Sundberg’s portrait of the tireless comedienne to Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster, I had an oddly similar reaction watching both of these films. Stern and Sundberg pull off a feat similar to Berlinger and Sinofsky, in that they present sides of their subject that make you want to dismiss and judge Rivers, even as you find your admiration for her growing.

Before I continue, I must cut things short with a full disclosure: I am thanked in the closing credits of this film, as I watched a very early cut of it and gave feedback to the filmmakers. At the time, a good movie was already in there, yet there was still much work to be done. I trusted that Stern, Sundberg, and editor Penelope Falk would get it where it needed to be. When I finally saw the finished version recently, it was even better than I expected. However, lest you think I am overly biased and too closely connected to the material, and rather than risking an outright dismissal because of this admission—I had hoped to assign another writer to review it but that didn’t work out—I would instead like to point you in the direction of four outside reviewers who don’t carry my baggage, but who nonetheless share my enthusiasm. If you don’t believe me, believe them:

New York Times (Manohla Dargis)

Movieline (Stephanie Zacharek)

indieWIRE (Eric Kohn)

Time Out New York (Keith Uhlich)

New York Magazine (David Edelstein)

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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