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
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 »
The exterior front of the comic book store shows a wooden structure with windows that reach about half way up the height of the building and a wooden door with a glass section in it. The interior view shows glass extending from the ceiling to the floor and no wooden door. See more »
Man, listen, I'll tell you something, people are starting to know the name Crumb. And when you croak, man, you're gonna leave something behind.
Yeah, I guess. Ha-ha. It's not like I'm Blind Lemon Jefferson or Big Mama Thornton.
Oh, come on, man. I'll tell you something, it sure beats working a gig like mine, being a nobody flunky and selling records on the side for a buck.
Well, that's true.
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By no means your average true story, American Splendor blends fact with fiction to create a slightly surreal world. Surreal, because it's so down-to-earth. It's a tale about the life of Harvey Pekar, essentially a relative non-entity. His one saving grace is that he writes comic books, the twist being that they're not about superheroes or anything extraordinary. Rather, they're about gritty reality. Pekar is the star of his own stories, and the life he leads, the people he knows and the everyday things he does are the essence of what his stories entail.
It's a strange story, and to rate it as a movie seems odd, somehow. The guy has led a pretty staple life, and there's nothing in it which elevates him above anyone else. Then again, that's really the point. There are plenty of elements in here which we can all relate to, and consequently, we find ourselves drawn into it. Ultimately it's convincing.
The acting is generally pretty impressive, particularly from Paul Giamatti as Harvey. Given the real Harvey features in the movie (Hence the blending of fact and fiction) we are able to compare them, and it must be said Giamatti gets it spot on. He does a great job of portraying a grump with a heart. By no means is Pekar ever shown as a mercenary worker, but it's pretty obvious he's one of the good guys; hence another strength here. Because he's shown as wysiwyg, you feel like you either know him, or are him. He's the epitome of your average man, and not even just American.
It's a quirky subject for a movie, but it certainly works and entertains. It's so ordinary yet surreal that it demands your attention, and it's a worthwhile journey to go on.
For many people, this movie is a mirror.
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