Monday, September 24, 2007

No 25: American Splendor

My All Time Favorite Movies: Number 25

American Splendor (2003)

Starring: Paul Giamitti and Hope Davis

A movie about living and loving life, from the point of view of one of the most misanthropic people on the planet. Real life underground comic book artist Harvey Pekar plays himself in transitional material throughout the film, while Paul Giamatti brings his hangdog-ish lovable loser persona to the fictionalized version of him. As a struggling file clerk in Cleveland who's wife leaves him after a bout with chronic sore throat rendering him speechless for months at a time, Pekar plods through life observing the ordinary, which to him, is pretty complex. Whether it's choosing a line at the grocery store, or deciding whether or not to shave, every decision Harvey makes is a difficult one. With the help of his "celebrity" friend Bob Crumb, Harvey makes himself into a comic book hero, and creates a cult comic 'American Splendor'.

When a kooky yet chronically depressed Delaware lady (Hope Davis) meets Pekar, for a makeshift date-weekend, they decide that they're perfect for each other and get married right away, though Harvey warns her, "I want to tell you right off the bat, I've had a vasectomy." The interplay between Davis and Giamatti is so real yet so funny, you'd swear they were the real Harvey and Joyce. And they probably got to study the couple pretty well, since they're in the movie too. It's a non-gimmicky thread that links all the events in Harvey's life with the real life character's that inhibit his world, and the film plays all the notes correctly, while never being to cutesy about its unique process.

That a man like, the unkempt, cranky, hostile Pekar can find love, find family, and find success sends a message to all of us. We can all be the heroes in our own lives. Thisis really the performance that catapulted Giamatti to stardom, not the more commercially successful and equally hilarious Sideways. As Harvey says, Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff. Yet wi th Giamatti, he's so natural, so real, so sympathetic in a non-sympathetic role, you forget which Harvey is the real one and which one is the actor.

American Splendor is simply one of the truest, funniest, saddest, most unique films I've ever seen and beg each and every one of you out there to rent this movie, and then share it with your friend and family. You'll be glad you did.


Anonymous Derek said...

Glad to see I have such sway over the brilliance that is Unky Rob's Kitchen Sink. Also, that movie has been added to my list of "Movies I Want To See".

I can't wait for the other 24!



Post a Comment

<< Home