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American Splendor - A Movie Review

The comic side is the best part of 'American Splendor'

By Marielle SabbagPublished about a month ago 3 min read

Every day is a brand new day.

American Splendor evolved out of the comic pages into theaters in 2003. Harvey Pekar is a lonely curmudgeon who finds his spark in creating comics. To his surprise, the public reacts positively to his satirical comics. Pekar finds a calling and romance.

Everyone has a unique way of looking at the world. I was drawn to watching American Splendor for its themes about creating comics and following what makes you happy. It’s a funny movie, but it gets lost in what it serves to viewers.

This film was Paul Giamatti's first leading role. Recently, he has earned a place on my list of favorite actors. Giamatti does the late Harvey Pekar justice. Giamatti needs to be recognized more for his comedy, especially the raspy voice he conveys. Harvey isn’t the happiest or most positive person, but the ability to create comics opens his reality.

The supporting cast includes Hope Davis, delivering a memorable performance as Joyce, Pekar’s wife. She is peculiar and has a dry humor that counterbalances Harvey’s cynicism.

Other performances like Judah Friedlander and James Urbaniak add charm to the film. One character who disappears is Robert Crumb (James Urbanjak), an American cartoonist who inspired Harvey and helped him with his comics. His character was important to the story. This film also marks the film debut of Josh Hutcherson.

The real Harvey Pekar appears in the film as a narrator. The storyline weaves a biography and a fictional story of Pekar’s life and work. Sometimes Giamatti’s character and the real Pekar shared scenes.

Artists, this is the film for you. Told in a comic style through a combination of live-action footage, the film had animated sequences of Pekar’s popular comics. Most of the artwork is from Pekar’s actual comics. The animated sequences were created by John Kuramoto and Gary Leib, while cartoonist Doug Allen replicated the artwork.

The comic side is the best part of American Splendor, adding a unique touch. Sometimes, thought bubbles appeared during scenes, like when Harvey was in a rush at the supermarket. Let’s be glad that doesn’t happen in real life because we’d get in trouble.

Production did a good job with the layout of the sets, particularly Harvey’s apartment. Design helps viewers get to know the characters, in which case, the comic books scoured about the house are a big hint about Harvey.

Many don’t realize how important comics are to the world. I collected several comics as a kid, like Garfield, For Better or For Worse, and Calvin and Hobbes. Comics are meant to make people laugh about relatable moments in life.

Here’s something to think about; are you a character? If you look at it creatively, we’re all characters in the world. How many people watching/listening do you think you do? Like Harvey’s comics, you never know how they’ll influence life.

Despite the positive influence of comics, something was missing from the film. There needed to be more to enhance the narrative flow instead of watching people constantly be negative about life. Certain subplots and characters felt uneven. Harvey and Joyce’s relationship needed further development.

Then again, American Splendor supplies a positive message about finding passions. Passions are so important to our mental health because they’re an outlet. They allow us to be creative and share with the world. Can you make your hobby a career? It all depends on your audience and if it pays the bills.

Take a look at American Splendor. It’s a funny film. You should research Harvey Pekar’s comics before watching the film.

moviereviewpop cultureentertainmentcomedycelebrities

About the Creator

Marielle Sabbag

Writing has been my passion since I was 11 years old. I love creating stories from fiction, poetry, fanfiction. I enjoy writing movie reviews. I would love to become a creative writing teacher and leave the world inspiring minds.

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    Marielle SabbagWritten by Marielle Sabbag

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