One of the most acclaimed films of 2003, American Splendor is also one of the most audaciously creative biographical movies ever made. Blending fact, fiction, and personal perspective from the comic books that inspired it, this marvelous portrait of Harvey Pekar--scowling curmudgeon, brow-beaten everyman, insightful chronicler of his own life, and frustrated file clerk at a Cleveland V.A. hospital--is an inspired amalgam of the media (comic books, TV, and film) that lifted Pekar from obscurity to the status of a pop-cultural icon. As played by Paul Giamatti in a master-stroke of casting, we see Pekar and his understanding wife (played by Hope Davis) as underdogs in a world full of obstacles, yet also infused with subtle hope and (gasp!) heartwarming perseverance. We also see the real Pekar, and this multifaceted commingling of "reel" and "real" turns American Splendor into a uniquely cinematic celebration of Pekar's life and, by extension, the tenacity of an unlikely American hero. --Jeff Shannon
I felt more alone that week than any. Sometimes I'd feel a body lying next to me like an amputee feels a phantom limb. All I did was think about Jennie Gerhardt and Alice Quinn and all the decades of people I had known. The more I thought, the more I felt like crying. Life seemed so sweet and so sad, and so hard to let go of in the end. But hey, man, every day is a brand new deal, right? Just keep on working and something's bound to turn up.
My name is Harvey Pekar - that's an unusual name - Harvey Pekar. 1960 was the year I got my first apartment and my first phone book. Now imagine my surprise when I looked up my name and saw that in addition to me, another Harvey Pekar was listed. Now I was listed as "Harvey L. Pekar", my middle name is Lawrence, and he was listed as "Harvey Pekar" therefore his was a - was a pure listing. Then in the '70s, I noticed that a third Harvey Pekar was listed in the phone book, now this filled me with curiousity. How can there be three people with such an unusual name in the world, let alone in one city? Then one day, a person I work with, expressed her sympathy with me, concerning what she thought, was the death of my father, and she pointed out an obituary notice in the newspaper for a man named Harvey Pekar. And one of his sons was named Harvey. And these were the other Harvey Pekar's. And six months later, Harvey Pekar Jr. died. And although I've met neither man, I was filled with sadness, 'what were they like?', I thought, it seemed that our lives had been linked in some indefineable way. But the story does not end there, for two years later, another 'Harvey Pekar' appeared in the phone book. Who are these people? Where do they come from? What do they do? What's in a name? Who is "Harvey Pekar"?