Movie of the Day – American Splendor

This particular selection today came from me thinking about a missed question I had at our weekly Geek Trivia competition.  While American Splendor nor Harvey Pekar was the answer, a question pertained to the underground comic artist Robert Crumb and Fritz the Cat.  Now I am a comic enthusiasts and it shamed me to not get this question right, but then for some reason I thought about American Splendor as Robert Crumb was part of the artistic team that brought Pekar’s writings to life.  If you aren’t familiar with Pekar, don’t worry as not a lot of people are.  As a biographic picture, this can be about as close to reality for Pekar as his comics can even get.  This movie really is basically a comic of his brought to life.

Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) is a comic book writer inspired by the work of his friend Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak). Pekar writes his comics about the sad monotony of everyday life, based on his own life in Cleveland, OH, working as a file clerk at a veteran’s hospital and spending his time reading books and listening to jazz. He meets up with Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis) and they enjoy a depressive relationship together. Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

As far as biography movies go, this is pretty simple.  There isn’t some grand story about a troubled musician, an important historical figure, but more so about the guy who took the medium of comics and expanded the use and coverage of them.  When you think comics, you think superhero comics.  It’s an honest assumption since most comics are colorful, fantasy filled mediums.  You don’t necessarily connect with these comics and you get fairly formulaic with the story lines.  Hero battles villain, hero saves woman, hero saves city and villain is defeated.  Sure there are other story lines, but given that in the time was the 1960s, there isn’t a lot of grandiose branching in stories.  Instead, Pekar wrote about the mundane or the doldrums of life, especially his life.  He writes about life and the situations that we all can relate to.  It’s always changing and different every day, but there is an honesty in those writings that ring true to a lot of people.

The movie is a chronicling of his life, his early workings as a file clerk and then meeting Robert Crumb, which he then develops into the writer that comic fans remember him for being.  Paul Giamatti is spot on  as Pekar and the similarities are uncanny down to the voice and mannerisms.  You watch him develop overtime into his craft and you can see where the inspiration for his writings and comics come from.

This isn’t an everyone movie.  I mean if you aren’t familiar with Pekar, you will find this boring.  But in a sense, the tone and pace of the movie is really close to Pekar’s life and comics can be.  It encapsulates the essence of his life and how he used that to create his works.  I still find it enjoyable watching Giamatti get into his character and you also have to realize that you are watching a piece of pop culture history.  American Splendor is a well done movie with great characterization and heart.  Maybe this might get you into indie comics and the step away from the typical fantasy driven comics.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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