Release: 2003, theatrical
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Shari Springer Berman, Harvey Pekar
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
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Description: Harvey is a world-weary, sarcastic man with a failing second marriage and a sore throat when everything comes crumbling down around him, wanting some sort of outlet for his day to day annoyances, he starts writing comic books.
American Splendor is fun movie. The main character, Harvey Pekar, oozes of sarcasm and world weariness in such a way that it actually adds to the movie's charm. We follow him from just before he starts making comics, till after his struggle with a serious illness. All the while the movie is occasionally interrupted and narrated by the actual Harvey Pekar. The first thing that pops out when you watch the movie is the style. The movie is made like a comic book, having tekst boxes and bubbles occur every now and then for comedic effect. The weird time skipping style of interrupting the movie with a short presentation by the actual person being presented also gives the movie a cozy feel, like you're actually hanging out with the people this movie is about, hearing their tale. It also cements how well represented the people in the movie actually are, giving others than Pekar himself a chance to say something directly to the audience. The movie is of course somewhat based on the comic book of the same name, American Splendor. It's an autobiographical comic book where the characters in the comic are people the writer actually met and interacted with on a daily basis. Making this movie also a fairly personal piece.
What I like this movie most for, is the way it presents it's characters. It makes a point saying that just because you aren't a fictional character, it doesn't mean that you don't have something that makes you unique. Not in the sappy way, but more in the way that yes - good character writing actually comes from writers basing it on their own interactions with actual people. The movie is about how interesting normal life can actually be, and as the characters state countless times: In real life, everything doesn't end up hunky dory. There'll always be something worth complaining about, all you really have to do is learn how to deal with it.
A bittersweet film yes, but a funny one as well. Taking a lot of things that people may take for granted and putting them in the spotlight. Granted, this form of comedy is not for everyone. The atmosphere may be too simple and quiet for people used to more over reactionary forms of storytelling. Thus, this movie doesn't have a major goal the characters have to achieve, some high tragedy they try to overcome or even really, all that much in the way of an ending. But that's what's so good about it, it's honesty. To a lot of people, life is nothing but a series of happy and sad events, that doesn't mean it's meaningless though. This is what this movie seems to convey, to me at least.