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American Splendor (2003)

(R) 102 mins

Synopsis: An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.

Directors: Shari Springer BermanRobert Pulcini

Writers:  Harvey Pekar (comic book series American Splendor), Joyce Brabner (comic book series Our Cancer Year), Shari Springer Berman (written by), and Robert Pulcini (written by)

Stars: Paul Giamatti, Shari Springer Berman and Harvey Pekar

Original Music by: Mark Suozzo

Serious Jest:   (Worth Watching)  Within the first 5 minutes, I dreaded watching 97 more about such a miserable human being.  I found Pekar to be self-destructive, pessimistic, and generally rude toward others.  I could not identify with him at all.  I also thought that Giamatti and Judah Friedlander were over-acting.  However, about half an hour later, I had begun to change my mind about some things.  While Pekar was definitely self-destructive and pessimistic, he was also often kind toward his loved ones and co-workers…unfortunately, his self-loathing would often manifest in tantrums, during which he could be disrespectful, verbally abusive, and childish toward those same people.  Moreover, the creative, meta style of this film was interesting and enjoyable, and revealed that Giamatti and Friedlander definitely did not over-act…instead, they nailed the strange mannerisms of two truly peculiar individuals (as did Hope Davis).  It was fascinating to watch Pekar create unique and creative comic books, despite his inability to “draw a straight line.”  I also loved the David Letterman scenes.  Finally, I was horrified to learn that I actually had a lot more in common with Pekar than I thought: escaping the frustrations of my “regular” job with a creative project; a failed marriage; cats; a weird-beyond-his-disability friend at work; debilitating, undiagnosed OCD; and the outward manifestation of humor to mask inner turmoil…like the proverbial sad clown.  Fortunately, I am an optimist, athletic, and not socially awkward like Pekar, but this movie was a pointed reminder of how bad things could have gotten if I had let depression consume me when I was at my worst, not that long ago.

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About Serious Jest

Film & TV Reviewer by Choice, Attorney at Law, Marine to the Corps (excuse the pun), Nupe Under Pressure, and MC by Nature

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