7.4/10
47,420
229 user 197 critic

American Splendor (2003)

Trailer
2:20 | Trailer
An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.

Writers:

Harvey Pekar (comic book series American Splendor), Joyce Brabner (comic book series Our Cancer Year) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 31 wins & 49 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris Ambrose Chris Ambrose ... Superman
Joey Krajcar Joey Krajcar ... Batman
Josh Hutcherson ... Robin
Cameron Carter Cameron Carter ... Green Lantern
Daniel Tay Daniel Tay ... Young Harvey
Mary Faktor ... Housewife
Paul Giamatti ... Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar ... Real Harvey
Shari Springer Berman ... Interviewer (voice)
Larry John Meyers Larry John Meyers ... Throat Doctor (as Larry John Myers)
Vivienne Benesch Vivienne Benesch ... Lana
Barbara Brown ... Nurse
Earl Billings ... Mr. Boats
Danny Hoch ... Marty
James Urbaniak ... Robert Crumb
Edit

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:

View content advisory »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Non comic book fans, or modern comic book fans, may be puzzled by the fact that the kid trick-or-treating as Green Lantern in the opening scene is wearing a red costume. This is actually accurate to the depicted era, the 1950s: the kid is dressed as the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who had a costume like that, before the concept got rebooted in 1959 into the more familiar green uniform version. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Real Toby: [looking at jellybeans on a tray] I think one might be lime. One might be like mint.
Real Harvey: Well, what's the difference between this and this?
Real Toby: One's cherry, one's cinnamon.
Real Harvey: You can tell that by just looking at them?
Real Toby: Not me. I have to put it in my mouth first.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Gilmore Girls: Luke Can See Her Face (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

My Favorite Things
(1959)
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Performed by John Coltrane
Courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp.
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

User Reviews

creative biopic
27 March 2004 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

In `American Splendor,' Paul Giamatti plays Harvey Pekar, the comic book creator who became famous as a recurring guest on the David Letterman Show. A resident of Cleveland, Pekar was a socially backward man who found he had the talent to translate the pain, loneliness and frustration of his own unhappy life into universal truths, writing material that other artists would then illustrate in comic book form. He began a series entitled `American Splendor,' which was really an ongoing autobiographical narrative, drawing on people and events in his own life as his source of inspiration. The film, a pseudo-documentary of sorts, tells his life story by cutting back and forth between both staged reenactments of the events in the stories and interviews with Pekar himself commenting on those events.

`American Splendor' is an offbeat little gem that, in many ways, approximates the look and style of a comic book. As the story plays itself out, captions often appear on the screen, as well as illustrations from Pekar's actual work based on the scene we are witnessing. Robert Pulcini and Sheri Springer Berman, who wrote and directed the film together, create a surrealistic tone by having Pekar and his real friends and companions frequently appear on screen next to the actors who are portraying them (some of them dead ringers for the originals). This technique brings a homespun, homey sweetness to the film. `American Splendor' is a paean to all the social misfits in the world, people who, for whatever reason, can't seem to fit into society's prescribed mold but who often develop strong, meaningful bonds with similar individuals. The movie is also a tribute to the power of art, both for the artist who finds purpose and release through his work and for those to whom his work speaks on a personal and emotional level. The people who inhabit Pekar's strange world – both in reality and within the borders of his comic strip boxes – are seen in the film as warm, good-natured individuals, not socially astute, perhaps, but not losers either.

The emotional focal point for the film is Harvey's relationship with his wife, Joyce, beautifully played by Hope Davis. Despite the somewhat bizarre nature of their marriage, Harvey and Joyce forge a lasting commitment based on reciprocity and devotion. In fact, in the latter sections, the film achieves an emotional depth one doesn't expect it to early on, partly because Harvey is dealt a cruel blow of fate that he and his wife are forced to navigate through together. Yet, the film as a whole is filled with a sly, deadpan, mischievous sense of humor that demonstrates a keen grasp of the absurdities of life.

As Pekar, Paul Giametti turns in a flawless performance, capturing the nebbishness, cantankerousness and ultimate likeability of the man he is portraying.

In both style and content, `American Splendor' is aptly named.


64 of 69 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 229 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 September 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

American Splendor See more »

Filming Locations:

Cleveland, Ohio, USA See more »

Edit

Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$159,705, 17 August 2003

Gross USA:

$6,010,990

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$7,986,084
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Holiday Movies on Prime Video for the Whole Family

Prime Video has you covered this holiday season with movies for the family. Here are some of our picks to get you in the spirit.

Get some picks



Recently Viewed