With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.
Starting from childhood attempts at illustration, the protagonist pursues his true obsession to art school. But as he learns how the art world really works, he finds that he must adapt his vision to the reality that confronts him.
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
Gary Dumm: longtime American Splendor artist is the gray-haired man getting his copy of "Our Cancer Year" autographed. See more »
Joyce Brabner comes by train from Delaware to Cleveland to meet Harvey Pekar in 1984. However, the Genesis engine shown pulling the train did not enter Amtrak's fleet until 1993, and the Amtrak logo on the engine is the post-Acela version (2000). See more »
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!)
37 of 45 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?