Monday, August 25, 2003

American Splendor is such a success on so many levels that it's hard to pick one place to start at. I think the critics have responded to it so positively because of its originality, and that is the most noticeable aspect of the film. American Splendor shifts with confidence from the real Harvey Pekar to the cinematic Pekar (played by Paul Giamatti) to the cartoon Pekar as drawn by Robert Crumb and other artists; sometimes two or even all three appear in the same frame. Giamatti's Pekar is the protagonist of the film, and the real Pekar and the cartoon Pekar serve as a kind of Greek chorus, and everything works beautifully.

But what I love most about this movie are the ideas and emotions always on display. It's "about" a lot of things: Entropy, optimism, the creative process, lower middle class life, and unconventional love. The performances are wonderful, but the film belongs to Hope Davis as Pekar's wife Joyce.

This is one of my favorite films of the year so far.

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