This is a fantastic story that cuts right through our idealistic view (supplied by TV and movies) of what life should be as opposed to what it really is. It addresses issues of fame, wealth and love in ways we rarely see on screen--realistic, hopeful, scary! The film is stunningly well written, directed and edited, inventively using comic book graphics and never getting caught up in irrelevant gimmicks or tired script structures. It bracingly tells things as they are, and merges the actors with the people they're playing in ways that are revelatory and absolutely hilarious.
Yes, the film keeps us laughing from start to finish, helped by the fact that Pekar and Brabner are almost criminally witty--brilliantly and insightfully played by Giamatti and Davis. The film is also filled out with wonderfully eccentric side characters, such as Harvey's colleague Radloff (played by Friedlander) and underground cartoonish granddad Robert Crumb (Urbaniak), as well as witty cameos from the likes of Logue and Shannon (playing Harvey and Joyce on stage) and extensive clips from Harvey's appearances on David Letterman's chat show. The most striking sequence is one in which Giamatti strolls through street scenes and comic book frames pondering Harvey's existence while talking about the other Harvey Pekars who've lived in Cleveland. Astonishing. And with a point too! Yet while the film has a lot to say, it's also a remarkable film biography of a simple curmudgeon who continues to use his own real life as art--on the page, on television, on the stage and now on the big screen.
dir-scr Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
with Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander, Toby Radloff, Madylin Sweeten, Danielle Batone, Earl Billings, James McCaffrey, Maggie Moore, Eli Ganias, Donal Logue, Molly Shannon, David Letterman
release US 15.Aug.03; UK 2.Jan.04
Made for each other: Giamatti and Davis (above); the real and animated Harvey (below).
See also: CAST Q&A
|diana, edmonton alberta canada: "I think this movie was grreat! How interesting and extraordinary his life was! I love the people playing him and his wife and his friend, you couldn't have picked better likenesses and these people made me fall in love with them. How wonderful they kept the girl for their own to raise, and seeing how he took his life and put it on paper is absolutely amazing. I would do anything just to say hi to him and his wife and to say thank you for his comics. I hope he made enough money from this movie to retire the way he wanted, because to me, he should. Give the movie a chance and watch it, it keeps you watching if you just give it a chance." (16.Nov.05)
Rich Cline attended a brief Q&A session with the cast of American Splendor: Paul Giamatti (who seemed exhausted after partying at Edinburgh Film Fest the previous weekend);
Harvey Pekar (who couldn't be much more laid back, matter-of-fact and effortlessly funny);
Joyce Brabner (who's hilarious--dry and cynical and fiercely intelligent); and their teen 'daughter' Danielle Batone.
On playing a real person in a movie...
On why he put his life into a comic book...
On how this has affected Danielle...
On their trip to the UK...