movie film review | chris tookey

American Splendor

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  American Splendor Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.43 /10
Harvey Pekar: Paul Giamatti , Real Harvey: Harvey Pekar
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Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Written by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini . Based on the American Splendor comic book series by Harvey Pekar and Our Cancer Year by Joyce Brabner

Released: 2003
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 100

American Splendor is a strikingly original tragic-comedy that may not make you laugh all that often, but will certainly make you think about life from a different perspective. The hero is Harvey Pekar, a real-life curmudgeon who has a thankless job as a file clerk in Cleveland. The only extraordinary thing about this less cheerful transatlantic cousin to Victor Meldrew is that Harvey has, with the help of various cartoonists, turned his misanthropic musings into a series of comic-strip books. They haven't made him rich, but they have turned him into a cult figure. This film about his mostly uneventful existence contains many of his wry observations and complaints about life.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The old whinger is brilliantly played by Paul Giamatti, with a permanent look of suspicious pessimism, and Hope Davis is equally funny as his geeky wife Joyce.

The most innovative aspect of the film is that the real-life Harvey and Joyce are also on hand, commenting upon their own existences and griping about everything, even the way they are played in the movie. "That guy don't look nothin' like me, but… whatever," grumbles Harvey. And real-life Joyce grumbles that she'd married Harvey before she realised he had no sense of humour about himself, little realising that she has no sense of humour about herself either, which is why they're such a perfect match.

So what is this film? Drama? Documentary? I'm not sure, but it works wonderfully well as a look at the people who can't be bothered to pursue the American dream. In its eccentric way, it celebrates the nerd, the geek, the underdog, the stroppy outsider.

There's something pleasantly affectionate about it all, and it's curiously liberating in the way it tells things the way they are (or at least as grumpy old Harvey sees them). In its bad-tempered honesty and refusal to ingratiate itself, it shows up the affectation of so much that passes as "personal" film-making.

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