Even with the recent commercial successes of this and this, people still look down on comic books, their readers, and especially their movies. To malign the worth of comic books is extremely short sided. Comic books are just another medium of entertainment. No different than a novel, or song, or television show. There are even certain comic books and comic book creators recognized for their work. Some that receive awards. Most look to the works of the strange and grumpy Alan Moore. But forgotten is the even more strange and grumpier Harvey Pekar. (Pronounced PEE-KAR) American Splendor circles the life of Harvey, the award winning comic book he made and the life that influenced it.
What makes American Splendor different than other comic books you’ve probably read or heard of is that its not about a superhero. Its about a normal guy facing normal problems. Cancer. Loneliness. Love. Loss. Mortality. Stark reality up front in center. To see these issues addressed through comics separates this film and Harvey Pekar’s story from the other cookie cutter movies that do the same.
American Splendor has a format that leads me to believe producers were uncertain as to how they wanted to make the film. Its a documentary that turns into a movie that turns into a documentary about a movie. There are times directly after scenes where an actor gets to interview the person they are portraying. But it works seamlessly and becomes an interesting mechanism in telling the story. No film I’ve seen has ever done this.
Though he can be overbearing at times, Paul Giamatti is someone I’ve always liked as an actor. He’s perfect in this role and, in my opinion, gives his finest performance as Harvey Pekar. You’ll love Hope Davis as very reserved Joyce Brabner. You’ll be mesmerized by the unrecognizable Judah Friedlander as Toby. However, its the real Harvey that stands out to me in this. Giamatti handles the thematic aspect of the role but you will be drawn more to the scenes where Harvey talks to him.
American Splendor is a very SPLENDID film about a real person with real problems who managed to use those problems to make an impact on the literary world. A man that should get a little more attention than he does now. Watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.