I saw American Splendor last night and was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a wonderful mixture of drama and documentary that adapts Harvey Pekar’s comic in a way that fits his style perfectly. I’d first seen Pekar and his work in Ron Mann’s film Comic Book Confidential but I didn’t get any of his comics. I really regret that and will try to remedy that soon.
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini cowrite and codirect the film and it was one of the most amazing films I’ve seen in a long time. Paul Giamatti captures Pekar and manages to look like some of drawings of him… it’s a great performance which is made even more fascinating in a scene where they appear together. Pekar himself narrates the film and there are brilliant touches where archival footage is intercut with the actors. It works because it’s a film about a comic that is the story of everyday life…but the comic isn’t real life with everything…just the interesting and true parts, which is what the film does as well.
Pekar is a gifted writer who has an amazing eye for detail and what is important in a situation or a person. He documents ordinary life and struggles in a way that makes me wonder about why spectacular stories seem interesting when there are so many profound and important things that happen around us.