7.5/10
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223 user 184 critic

American Splendor (2003)

An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.

Writers:

(comic book series American Splendor), (comic book series Our Cancer Year) | 2 more credits »

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ON DISC
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 31 wins & 49 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris Ambrose ...
Superman
Joey Krajcar ...
Batman
...
Robin
Cameron Carter ...
Green Lantern
...
Young Harvey
...
Housewife
...
...
...
Interviewer (voice)
Larry John Meyers ...
Throat Doctor (as Larry John Myers)
Vivienne Benesch ...
Lana
...
Nurse
...
...
Marty
...
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Storyline

Harvey Pekar is file clerk at the local VA hospital. His interactions with his co-workers offer some relief from the monotony, and their discussions encompass everything from music to the decline of American culture to new flavors of jellybeans and life itself. At home, Harvey fills his days with reading, writing and listening to jazz. His apartment is filled with thousands of books and LPs, and he regularly scours Cleveland's thrift stores and garage sales for more, savoring the rare joy of a 25-cent find. It is at one of these junk sales that Harvey meets Robert Crumb, a greeting card artist and music enthusiast. When, years later, Crumb finds international success for his underground comics, the idea that comic books can be a valid art form for adults inspires Harvey to write his own brand of comic book. An admirer of naturalist writers like Theodore Dreiser, Harvey makes his American Splendor a truthful, unsentimental record of his working-class life, a warts-and-all self portrait... Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 September 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Esplendor americano  »

Filming Locations:

 »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$159,705, 17 August 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,003,587, 30 November 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One scene features a reconstruction of Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti ) appearing on Late Night with David Letterman (1982), criticizing NBC while wearing a T-shirt with "On Strike Against NBC" written on it. Giamatti previously played an NBC executive in Private Parts (1997) and in one scene watches in dismay as Howard Stern criticizes the network while appearing on the same show, wearing a T-shirt with the same words written on it. See more »

Goofs

In the establishing Manhattan skyline shot before one of the David Letterman sequences, what was then (the 1980s) the Pan Am building is shown with its current "Met Life" signs (which didn't replace the "Pan Am" signs until 1992) shining from the top. See more »

Quotes

Real Harvey: [the real Harvey Pekar introduces his on-screen character] OK. This guy here, he's our man, all grown up and going nowhere. Although he's a pretty scholarly cat, he never got much of a formal education. For the most part, he's lived in shit neighborhoods, held shit jobs, and he's now knee-deep into a disastrous second marriage. So, if you're the kind of person looking for romance or escapism or some fantasy figure to save the day... guess what? You've got the wrong movie.
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Connections

References Crumb (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Know Your Rights
(1982)
Written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones
Performed by The Clash
Courtesy of Epic Records/Sony Music
Entertainment (UK) Ltd.
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
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User Reviews

 
A modern classic of successful innovation
25 August 2003 | by See all my reviews

Successfully innovative, American Splendor combines fiction and reality in a spellbinding and amusing way, winning awards at Cannes and Sundance, and proving its maxim that life is pretty complex (and endlessly fascinating) stuff . . .

The story features Harvey Pekar, as himself, as the played by actor Paul Giamatti and as the comic book persona that he has created based on himself. Pekar is downbeat, depressed, in a dead end filing job, rather bitter. His best friend is a self-confessed nerd. Yet when the events of his life are epitomized in comic book snapshots they are intensely poignant, they seem to reach the disenfranchised, the dysfunctional within each of us. We follow him into a marriage that is as weird as he is. The originality of the material is reflected in its postmodern style of presentation, self-awareness of audience-manipulation blending seamlessly with entertainment and artistic delivery. Scenes are introduced and blended with comic book taglines, storyboarding, and even transitions from interloping set discussions with the real Pekar to the actor playing the scene under discussion. If it sounds pretentious, it's not – simply because it works so well and in an unpretentious way. Lovingly created and very moving. Probably the first real classic of 2003 and not to be missed, and for lovers of jazz/blues a soundtrack collectors item.

(Seeing it at the Edinburgh International Film Festival I also had the privilege of seeing the real life Pekar, his wife and adopted daughter together with Paul Giamatti, truly topping off a multi-media experience haha!)


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