Ordinary life conveyed with extraordinary candor
From the opening credits this movie captivated and continually
surprised me, and in the end it's going to stay with me. American
Splendor may not have the reach, scale or gravitas of a West Side Story
or Godfather, but it is nevertheless nine stars for me.
And I think it's precisely because the film does not reach for the
stars. American Splendor is an honest story on an honest scale, the
real story of a regular guy who, "for the most part, lived in sh-t
neighborhoods, held sh-t jobs." Harvey Pekar, we learn at the onset, is
a real-life comic book character, but his were ANTI-superhero comics,
about the challenges of everyday life: "No idealized sh-t; no phony
bullsh-t." Not only is he not a superhero; he's also not a gangster or
a gang member, a soldier or a spy, or anything we typically associate
with high drama. Rather he's a Cleveland file clerk. Think about how
often a file clerk is the star of a film, and you begin to get an idea
of just how uncommon such honest stories are.
Now you might wonder why the story of a Cleveland file clerk would even
be worth watching. But as Pekar observes, "ordinary life is actually
pretty complex stuff." For example, after Pekar shares a brief, tender,
heartfelt conversation with a former classmate he happens to run into,
the glimpse of friendship/ affection/ love makes its ensuing absence
The film, amazingly, captures the sweetness, sadness and complexity of
ordinary life through a series of innovative maneuvers: having the real
Harvey Pekar narrate and pop in to comment on the film along with his
wife and friends and use of comic-strip scenes and video footage of
Pekar's Dave Letterman appearances. But it's never innovation just to
be different or even creative, but rather a way to maintain the honesty
-- keeping the viewer in the know as to what's in front of and behind
the camera. And rather than detract from the narrative sequence, the
effects make the story all the more cohesive.
Pekar observes that although we inevitably lose the war (i.e., we die),
we can win some battles along the way. Sometimes, though, even winning
a single battle can seem next to hopeless. But although the odds were
stacked mighty high against Pekar and American Splendor, both triumph
boldly, an unqualified, wholehearted win that no subsequent loss,
however inevitable, will ever undo..
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In short; this is one of the best movies I've ever seen. To be honest I
wasn't familiar with work of Harvey Pekar, but with this movie I
started to admire him and his work. American Splendor is a beautiful,
funny and very realistic biography, one of the most original shown
movies I've ever seen. I like the fact that Harvey is also starring as
himself in this movie and his funny remarks on the actor, who was
playing him in the movie: "This guy who is playing me is nothing like
me!". I think this concept of the movie is very original and funny.
Paul Giamatti is great in portraying Harvey Pekar and he looks like a
clone of Woody Allen, but he's not copying him, he delivers a very
realistic and likable character, despite the fact that Harvey is
complaining all the time and being very pessimistic. I don't know... I
always liked that kind of characters, so I can say that this movie is
really underrated classic of modern cinema. The acting is superb, the
music is excellent and the whole movie is perfect. The most realistic
movie about real struggle to be a "star"..