American Splendor, like the comic of the same title, comes directly from the life of creator Harvey Pekar. Pekar features and gives commentary on this recreation of biographical episodes by writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.The directors (Pulcini also edited) have blended biography, documentary and fiction to tell a fascinating story about a creative man, his wife and their milieu. Berman and Pulcini bring Pekarís work to life by effectively placing us inside his comic.
As well as appearing as himself, Pekar features in footage from the Letterman show. Paul Giamatti brilliantly evokes him in a slump-shouldered, melancholic performance. Hope Davis is similarly fine as Pekar's wife, Joyce Brabner, and Judah Friedlander as self-confessed "nerd" Toby Radloff. We especially appreciate the skill of the performers after seeing them interact with the people they're playing during the semi-documentary sequences.American Splendor, with its suitably drab Cleveland photography by Terry Stacey and its downbeat mood, drags a little towards the end but is an inspired and original work.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.