American Splendor

What? We never reviewed this film when it came out last year?

Well, that’s okay because, if you don’t live near a major center, you’d have never found it playing. Now you can just rent the DVD or video, or buy them from or The DVD contains a number of special features, including an account of the principal characters’ experience with the film’s festival success.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directors: Shari Springer Berman,
Robert Pulcini.

Writers: Berman, Pulcini, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Babcock.

Paul Giamatti…..Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar…..Harvey Pekar
Earl Billings…..Mr. Boats
Daniel Tay…..Harvey Pekar
Hope Davis….Joyce Brabner
Joyce Brabner…..Joyce Brabner
James Urbaniak…..Robert Crumb
Judah Friedlander….Toby Radloff
Toby Radloff…..Toby Radloff
Donal Logue….Harvey Pekar
Shari Springer Berman…..Interviewer
Chris Ambrose…..Superman


Harvey Pekar’s makes his schlubby life the subject of a comic book, which then affects the course of that life. Eventually, his life becomes a film, which features actors, animation, and the real-life people who inspired both.

High Points:

Harvey’s first date with Joyce. Mainstream Hollywood comedy writers spend a lifetime trying to write a sequence this funny and memorable.

The ability of the filmmakers to combine so many different styles and techniques and have these work.

Low Point:

The film takes awhile to get going, and some viewers will find themselves getting restless.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6 Although the film has been adapted from American Splendor and Our Cancer Year, the approach remains fairly original. Yes, Woody Allen and others have done things like this (though with very different characters), but even compared to its stylistic predecessors, American Splendor still feels fresh.

Effects: 4/6. The interplay of comics and animation with reality works well.

Story: 5/6:

Acting: 6/6. The actors give excellent, convincing performances, a fact made all the more remarkable by the appearance in the film of the actual people they are portraying.

Production: 6/6 The mise-en-scene, very like Ghost World‘s (not surprising, since both were directly influenced by Pekar’s pal Robert Crumb), makes art from the aesthetically ugliest elements of urban life.

Emotional Response: 6/6.

Overall: 6/6.

In total, American Splendor receives 38/42.