The Indies: American Splendor

American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 2003)

With Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis.

Yesterday I posted my thoughts on Big Fan, a movie about a guy with obvious flaws that are only compounded by his lack of ambition.  Harvey Pekar, the topic of American Splendor, is just another average guy with plenty of flaws of his own but he manages to productively channel these compulsions into a creative medium that allows him to leave a lasting mark on society.  American Splendor is the true story of a hospital file clerk who had the vision to create a comic book based solely on his own life experiences.  Pekar is the star of these comics, which feature no “heroes” in the usual sense of the word.  Paul Giamatti stars as Pekar and turns in one of the best performances of his career.  He is constantly losing his voice and going off on different tangents when provoked by the people who annoy him.  These people become the characters in his comics.

The movie is funny and stylistically engaging.  While the ending is particularly touching, I still feel like I never really got to know Pekar the man.  The movie never dives deep into the intricacies of his quirky personality and gets down to what really makes him tick.  This might be because the real Pekar is still living and actually appears in some parts of the film as himself.  The relationship between Pekar and Joyce (Hope Davis) also seems a bit underdeveloped.  I never really understood what made them so drawn to one another besides the fact that they were both just too weird to make it work with anyone else.  All nitpicking aside, American Splendor satisfied me enough to make me interested in checking out some of the comics, and I always enjoy seeing a nontraditional movie about an off-key topic such as Pekar and his comics.

Rating: 7/10

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