American Splendor (2003)

R  |   |  Biography, Comedy, Drama  |  12 September 2003 (USA)
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An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.


(comic book series American Splendor), (comic book series Our Cancer Year), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 30 wins & 42 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris Ambrose ...
Joey Krajcar ...
Cameron Carter ...
Interviewer (voice)
Larry John Meyers ...
Throat Doctor (as Larry John Myers)
Vivienne Benesch ...
Mr. Boats


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


Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

12 September 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Esplendor americano  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$159,705 (USA) (15 August 2003)


£306,630 (UK) (9 January 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


All of the "white room" documentary scenes were filmed in one day. See more »


In Joyce Brabner's comic book shop in Delaware, she is looking for the new issue of American Splendor, issue #8. American Splendor #8 was published in 1983. There are several promotional posters on the wall of the comics character Concrete (the black, white, and yellow ones that say "Can't find what you're looking for? Just Ask!"). The first Concrete story was not first published until 1986. (The poster wasn't released until much later.) See more »


Joyce Brabner: Harvey, may I have a glass of water and an aspirin?
Harvey Pekar: Why, do you have a headache?
Joyce Brabner: No, but I want to avoid getting one.
See more »


Features The David Letterman Show (1980) See more »


(Published as "Star Dust")
Music by Hoagy Carmichael
Lyrics by Mitchell Parish
Performed by Dizzy Gillespie
Courtesy of Savoy Records and June St Entertainment
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A modern classic of successful innovation
25 August 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – 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!)

36 of 44 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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