Monday, August 1, 2011

American Splendor (2003)

Harvey Pekar Hits The Big Screen

"From the streets of Cleveland comes: American Splendor"!

- American Splendor (2003) is a very unique film. It tells the true tale of Harvey Pekar, the author of the comic book series "American Splendor" that became popular in the underground comic world but not popular enough to allow Harvey to quit his day job as a hospital file clerk. Unlike other biography films, the real Harvey Pekar narrates the film and gives his own insights into his life. Other real people that are being portrayed by actors also join him from time to time.

When the film is not focused on the real Harvey Pekar, it is focused on the film version of Harvey Pekar, played wonderfully by Paul Giamatti in one of his greatest performances (although "he don't look nothing like me, but whatever" says the real Harvey Pekar). While generally giving a great performance, Giamatti also simply makes Harvery Pekar a little more likable and relatable, since the real Harvey is a bit strange. Rounding out the rest of the major members of the cast is Hope Davis, doing a great job in her role as the over-dramatic nerdy Joyce and Judah Friedlander giving a very funny performance as Harvey's bizarre yet likable co-worker Toby.

Along with the great cast is a great Oscar nominated screenplay, which is filled with fun, interesting, and funny dialogue. There is a lot of dark humor in the misfortunes that befall Pekar, which I for one personally felt a little guilty laughing at - you know, since it is a true story and all that.... This also proves how personal the film feels, something I suspect would not be the case had the real Harvey Pekar been absent from the film. While there are plenty of moments that make you laugh, there are also plenty of somber moments that really move you as well. The film also has an overall quirky flow and a nice look, combining a documentary style with a traditional subjective film view with animation on top of it all. American Splendor is definitely a film unlike any other.

CBC Rating: 8/10

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