An original mix of fiction and reality illuminating the life of comic book hero Harvey Pekar. Harvey (Paul Giamatti) is an obsessive compulsive who works as a file clerk at his local Cleveland hospital. At a garage sale of old records, he meets Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), an artist and music enthusiast who is finding success from his underground comic books. Harvey begins to write his own brand of comic and first American Splendor comic is published in 1976. 

An unusual and effective portrait of the artist Harvey Pekar.

Documentarians Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, partners in work and life, have created a most unusual and effective portrait of the artist Harvey Pekar. He was the man who wrote about his life in the cartoon books American Splendor. With Cleveland the definitive landscape of this film, Pekar, Paul Giamatti is a file clerk in a city hospital.

The film opens - as we just saw - with his second wife leaving him because she can't stand his plebeian life. Harvey is distraught, lonely and horny. Then into his life comes Robert Crumb, James Urbaniak, another cartoon artist whose life's been documented in the film Crumb. The two become friends, they share a love of music and a sort of misery in life. Crumb becomes successful. Harvey decides to write his own cartoon book about the complexities of ordinary life with Crumb illustrating. There are no superheroes in his work, it's just about this ordinary disgruntled man and his nerdish friends. Harvey's success attracts Delaware shopowner Joyce, Hope Davis who becomes his third wife.

But the attraction of this film is not the documentation of the life of this often uncharming man, it's in the way the filmmakers have dealt with the material. The real Harvey Pekar appears. There's a lovely deconstruction of his role right at the beginning of the film. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini use the effects of an animated book to tell their story, they have been so clever about presenting this life, helped enormously by the real Harvey Pekar and by the extraordinary performances of Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis as Harvey and Joyce. This film won a Fipresci in Cannes, it deserved it.


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1 hour 41 min
In Cinemas 01 January 1970,
Thu, 01/01/1970 - 20