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Big Screen | "Bone," "Joan" Give June a Critical Boost

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire June 9, 2010 at 1:11AM

A unlikely duo of Sundance 2010 alums are giving this summer a much needed boost of critical acclaim this weekend, with Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's doc "Joan RIvers: A Piece of Work" and Debra Granik's U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner "Winter's Bone" each beginning their limited releases come Friday.
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A unlikely duo of Sundance 2010 alums are giving this summer a much needed boost of critical acclaim this weekend, with Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's doc "Joan RIvers: A Piece of Work" and Debra Granik's U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner "Winter's Bone" each beginning their limited releases come Friday.

"Rivers" - which won the documentary editing award at Sundance - comes from directing duo Stern and Sundberg ("The Devil Came on Horseback, "The End of America"), and chronicles the private dramas of iconic comedian Joan Rivers, who at age 75, still struggles with both her insecurities and her ability to find steady work. Receiving an impressive "A-" average from criticWIRE, the film was one of the top films in indieWIRE's poll of critics at Sundance.

"Viewed in one way, 'A Piece of Work' is 'The Wrestler' of stand-up comic portraits, a snapshot of getting over the hill and attempting to regain balance again and again," indieWIRE's Eric Kohn writes in his review. "Still, the documentary also functions perfectly well as a showcase of Rivers’s comedic abilities, which haven’t aged a bit. Freely unleashing gags about physical disabilities and anal sex, she rises above (or, to paraphrase Mel Brooks, rises below) the modern boundaries of good taste."

LA Weekly's Karina Longworth is also a fan, writing from Sundance that "amazingly, 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' might be best understood as one of a piece with Stern and Sundberg's activist work. If the entertainment industry ain't exactly Darfur, it still hasn't been an easy road for Rivers, whose boundary-breaking comic creativity will likely be listed low in her obituary, to make room for discussion of her obsession with reinvention. Stern and Sundberg sympathize with the star's plight, and provide an excellent platform for her gut-busting politically incorrect comedy to speak for itself."

Other positive reviews include LA Times' Mark Olsen, Variety's Dennis Harvey, and New York Magazine's David Edelstein.

Edelstein also discusses "Winter's Bone," calling the film "the year’s most stirring film."

The film follows Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman living in the Ozark Mountains whose crystal-meth-making father has skipped bail and gone missing, putting her on a mission to find him. Unless she does, she and her young siblings and disabled mother face destitution. It averaged a "B+" from criticWIRE, and like "Joan," "Bone" was one of the top films in indieWIRE's poll of critics at Sundance/

"An elegant, soft spoken noir, Debra Granik’s 'Winter’s Bone' exudes desolation," indieWIRE's Eric Kohn wrote of the film. "Adapting Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name, Granik simultaneously develops a dreary backwoods environment while situating her layered story of deceit within it."

Variety's Justin Chang calls the film "raw but utterly enveloping," while Salon's Andrew O'Hehir deems it a "dynamite backwoods crime thriller."

Check out links to each film's indieWIRE page as well as other films opening this weekend, plus recent theatrical releases below. They include synopses, trailers, and a variety of criticWIRE grades and links to reviews.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Winter's Bone (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Lottery (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: no ratings yet


criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Exit Through The Gift Shop (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Please Give (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Father of My Children (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Double Take (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Best Worst Movie (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Ondine (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Micmacs (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Mother and Child (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Babies (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Solitary Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Holy Rollers (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C

Agora (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C-

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

This article is related to: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work







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