American Splendor 2003 R CC

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(127) IMDb 7.5/10
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Droll, offbeat film about underground comic-book writer Harvey Pekar.

Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis
1 hour 42 minutes

American Splendor

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Comedy
Director Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Starring Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis
Supporting actors Josh Hutcherson, Cameron Carter, Daniel Tay, Mary Faktor, Paul Giamatti, Harvey Pekar, Shari Springer Berman, Larry John Meyers, Vivienne Benesch, Barbara Brown, Earl Billings, Danny Hoch, James Urbaniak, Eli Ganias, Sylvia Kauders, Rebecca Borger, Nick Baxter, Allen Branstein
Studio HBO
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

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Customer Reviews

Based upon the real life story of Harvey Pekar.
Daniel B. Clendenin
Splicing both real footage and fictitious posturing as well as the real Harvey and his colorful comic strip, American Splendor is a film that is unlike any other.
Anyone who think their life sucks should watch this, or anyone who likes to watch good movies with good acting too.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By cookieman108 on February 6, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Being familiar with Harvey Pekar's comic book American Splendor, I was really pleased to see the movie was about as close to the source material as any other movie I've ever seen. I haven't had an opportunity to read Our Cancer Year, a graphic novel by Harvey and his wife Joyce about Harvey's bout with cancer, but that storyline is also incorporated into this movie.

Harvey Pekar, played by Paul Giamatti, leads an ordinary life in the city of Cleveland, working as a file clerk in a VA hospital, divorced twice, scours garage sales and thrift stores for rare Jazz records, is thoroughly well read, and observes the people in his life and his surroundings fairly closely, taking it all in, good and bad. Harvey does tend to a rather morose individual; so don't come into this movie looking for tales of happiness and joy. A chance meeting with a greeting card artist and future underground comic legend Robert Crumb develops in to a long-standing friendship through their similar interests. Once Crumb becomes famous for his unusual style of comic books, Harvey decides he wants to try his hand at it, creating, with the help of Crumb's illustrations, stories about his life titled American Splendor. No superheroes here, but more of a realistic portrayal of his own life, warts and all. Soon he develops cult fame, and meets his future wife, Joyce, a comic book storeowner from Delaware. Harvey's fame manifests itself in a sort of bizarre fashion, leading to a number of appearances on David Letterman's late night talk show, and even trickles down to people he knows and includes in his book, specifically his ultra nerdy co-worker and friend Toby Radloff, played wonderfully by Judah Friedlander.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By nico_laos on June 22, 2004
Format: DVD
Check this out. This is mostly a biopic about underground comic book creator, Harvey Pekar, but there are some documentary elements thrown in as well. The REAL Harvey Pekar narrates this fantastic film even criticizing the filmmakers for picking a guy (Paul Giamatti) that he claims looks nothing like him. There are times throughout the movie where we're treated to the real Harvey, his wife, and friends in an interview format. Harvey Pekar eventually made it all the way to David Letterman in the '80s. Instead of recreating the scene on film, the filmmakers instead used the actual footage from the show.
We all love Harvey. It's kind of hard not to. He's just some guy trying to live his life while wading through all the BS and stupidity that surrounds him. He gets so sick of it that he finally puts it down in the form of a comic book. The rest is history. Absoulutely one of the best films of 2003. Check it out.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Bonesteel on June 26, 2004
Format: DVD
Disgruntled file clerk and social misfit Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) lucks into a degree of fame, if not fortune, when underground comics legend Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak) collaborates with him on a comic about his life. Pekar lives in a state of existential misery, desperately lonely and angry about his outsider status. His comics, though, make him a kind of hero to average suffering folks and even bring him a little family by the end of the film (his wife, Joyce Brabner, is wonderfully played by Hope Davis). We are left with the sense that life never has and never will be smooth sailing for Pekar, but the struggle has its own worth and nobility and, in the end, will bring you more than mere surrender ever will. This may be a rather sweet, conventional message for a film that aims to be so subversive and counter-cultural, but it is reassuring all the same.
Writer/directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini employ a mix of animation, documentary and bio-pic conventions to relate their story, with varying degrees of success. Showing excerpts of Harvey's actual appearances on the David Letterman Show instead of recreating them with actors is a stroke of genius and I appreciated the unapologetic, direct way these sequences were handled: we see Paul Giamatti waiting in the wings, followed by a cut to the real Harvey walking out onto the stage. At other times, such as having the real Harvey comment on the actor chosen to play him, it seems somewhat contrived and echoes a complaint that he makes during the film of having been co-opted by the system.
All in all, a very entertaining, interesting film with wonderful performances. PS: I can't end my review without mentioning Judah Friedlander's wonderfully quirky, hilarious, and touching performance as uber-nerd Toby Radloff. Certain key characters also appear as themselves during the film.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Boz Hubris on August 28, 2004
Format: DVD
I'm not a comic book fan or reader whatsoever and I went into this film with some trepidation, but after seeing it I can't help but call it a great movie. Paul Giamatti portrays Harvey Pekar, an underground comic book writer of the 1970s (to present) who showcases in his works the everyday mundane existence of average Americans, including himself. Never wholly good or bad, just life from an honest and gritty perspective a la Charles Bukowski. In this docu-movie we follow Harvey through his years of obscurity as a Cleveland file clerk who befriends the infamous Robert Crumb, to the peak of his celebrity as he does several spots on the Letterman show. He is shown to be a gruff and tempermental character but with a soft side that makes him wholly enjoyable. So as not to give any of the storyline away for those unfamiliar with the artist, Harvey, through all of his struggles with career and marriage remains the same grounded average Joe. For the real fans there are even several spots with the writer himself in this sometimes comic book movie.

The casting is rather good with Giammati in the lead and Hope Davis as his forceful but understanding wife. Giammati is a cross between Vincent D'Onfrio and Nick Tortelli (Carla's husband)from cheers (whatever his name is) and is always a believable force on the screen. Hope Davis is the Velma of the seedy underground comic/geek underworld. The rest of the supporting cast are great stock characters and mirror the real life entities which encompassed Pekar's life. For those of you who might have been put off by the Crumb movie, this was done far more conventionally and without the grotesque, sad nature of the afforementioned film. But that's probably more to do with the subject and not ability. A good alternative to the typical Hollywood big-budget schlock.
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