American Splendor

Year: 2003
Production Co: Good Machine
Director: Shari Springer Berman/Robert Pulcini
Writer: Shari Springer Berman/Robert Pulcini/Harvey Pekar/Joyce Brabner
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar is the ultimate American anti-hero, and this seems to be what this film is about - another America where the people are broke, have dead end jobs, few redeeming features and seemingly useless lives, instead of all being gorgeous, young, superheroes or action movie cops. The analogy of being a superhero is further explored by the real life Pekar's publishing a comic book of his mundane and difficult life, including his dreary surroundings in America's rustbelt, love hate relationship with wife Joyce and battle with testicular cancer.

Inspired by his friend Bob Crumb (illustrator of the Fritz the Cat series), Pekar (Giamatti) devises comic strips of himself and his life and had illustrators from all over draw them. He becomes something of a cult hero in the US, making several irreverent appearances on the David Letterman show.

Rather than just tell the story with actors though, the filmmakers intersperse the movie with interviews with the real people; Harvey, Joyce and his friends. The result is quite unlike anything you've seen before, and it's hard to believe anything can make you care about a goofball nobody like American Splendor does.

Paul Giamatti, as Harvey, is fast proving himself one of those Nicolas Cage-esque actors who can effortlessly straddle between commercial and independent movies. His casting as the cynical, scowling, perpetually and terminally miserable (anti) hero of the story is nothing short of brilliant.

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