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American Splendor /

Rated: R

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, James Urbaniak, Harvey Pekar, Judah Friedlander
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Bob Pulcini, Robert Pulcini
Produced by: Ted Hope
Written by: Shari Springer Berman, Bob Pulcini, Robert Pulcini, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner
Distributor: New Line Cinema

 

     American Splendor has opened up to rave reviews; the majority of critics have called it an instant classic. While I do not understand where theyíre coming from, I cannot deny that it offers a great time, even if it isnít a great movie. A thoroughly amusing picture, this one perfectly combines fabulous acting, stylish direction, and a witty and comedic script. Before viewing American Splendor I knew little about Harvey Pekar and even less about his comic book, but this only made it more enjoyable. Fans of Pekarís comic book, ďAmerican Splendor,Ē liked it because it was fresh, unique, and breezy to read. I like this film because it is fresh, unique, and breezy to view. Finally, Iíve found a comic book movie that doesnít involve any big, green monsters, grown men who have the power to shoot spider-webs out of their wrists, or mutants in a school that teaches them how to become touch with their powers. American Splendor is certainly the yearís biggest delight 

     For those of you who donít have any prior knowledge on the topic, the comic book ďAmerican Splendor,Ē was written by Pekar (played by both himself and Paul Giamatti in this movie), comically chronicling everyday events in his life. For thirty years, he had a job as a file clerk at a Cleveland hospital. Even when his comic book began to sell, Pekar was never financially able to quit his day-job. Part obsessive/compulsive, part control-freak, and part hopeless, his daily adventures always intrigued readers. American Splendor is a scrumptious showcase of all of the small journeys that Pekar embarked on during the prime part of his life.

     The highlighting moments of American Splendor are when the filmmakers merge clips of Giamatti acting and real footage of Pekar, together. Through these, directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini and producer Ted Hope prove to us that their work is as technically savvy as it is entertaining. Itís also amazing to observe how accurate Giamattiís portrayal of the real Pekar is. The transitions from acted scenes to real footage are definitely noticeable, but succeed, from a creative standpoint. The reason why they work is simple. Pekar was illustrated by many different artists in his comic books. Each of these men drew him a different way. When viewing American Splendor, we are supposed to feel like weíre looking at the actual comic book. During the transitions, it seems as though the ďillustrator of the movieĒ has changed; weíre merely looking at a new issue of the comic. The appearance of the character Harvey Pekar has changed, but his personality has not. Giamatti clearly studied everything about Pekar, prior to acting in this film. His performance is of Oscar-quality.

     More tremendous acting comes from Hope Davis (who was also great as the high-strung daughter in last yearís About Schmidt). Davis plays off Giamattiís character beautifully; her work in American Splendor is darkly funny and spectacularly interesting. Every single supporting performer in this movie is superb. The reason why this movie is so fascinating is because of the way Pekar interacts with all of the crazy, bubbly personalities that he encounters. This film, really, makes me want to read a few issues of his comic book and graphic novel.

     While it is one of the best movies of the year, American Splendor does not contain any groundbreaking material. It offers a great time and is very accomplished, though. Everyone on this project took risks (the directorsí, writersí, producerís, castís, and editorís work is extremely effective). Aside from a few fictitious elements, this really is the true story of Pekarís life, too. American Splendor is definitely a movie to see; audiences of all sorts will be able to enjoy it. Now I just have to work on getting the comic book geeks to buy tickets to it. Itís amusing how most of them are resisting my recommendation, because this one really shows us what underground comics are all about. Itís the most enthralling picture Iíve seen all year.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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