Opening with capillaried close-ups of its subject’s bare face, Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg’s competent “year-in-the-life” documentary hints at an unmasking. Yet revelations that the 75-year-old comic is needy, hard-driving, and relentlessly self-flagellating aren’t all that surprising.
Likewise, that she’s only fitfully funny, Celebrity Apprentice stint notwithstanding. Still, Rivers remains a complex and sympathetic figure throughout, her semi-iconic status cemented in the groundbreaking gynecological punch lines of her ’60s rise, the suicide of her husband, and a humility at odds with her filthy-mouthed-old-diva shtick. Afternoon stand-up at a no-name Bronx bar?
Rivers takes it, sequins on and f-bombs flying. Her famously worked-over features may not move, but such moments of humility affectingly expose the panic beneath all that pancake.