rewatching this years later, after getting into the comics..I still like it... it's a love letter to Pekar's work but it's a little too meta for the material at times and the "comic panel" motif misses the point that American Splendor was a comic book by a guy who didn't like comic books (mostly). The actors deserve the praise they got because the pressures of having the real people in the movie had to be pressing.
Without a doubt, one of the most creative films you will ever see. It could very easily redefine the "biopic" genre, simply by allowing us access to the actual subject, right along side the written character. This film gives me hope, and it makes me laugh. However unfortunate...as much as I wish to identify with Wendell Berry, I truly identify with Harvey Pekar, without any shift of my heart or mind.
Well directed, Paul Giamatti is a great actor. He holds the whole movie on his acting skills.
Yet, it is a very depressing movie and embodies this whole "man, we're fucked anyway" part of the US. Yeah, you know it.
I admire this film's non-traditional approach to the bio pic, and Giamatti gives quite possibly the best performance of his career. But, ultimately, the film left me cold. It's too obsessed to with the quirks of the characters to flesh them out as people, yet it doesn't go all the way with its unconventional aspects to work purely on a style level. It doesn't have much to say about Pekar away from the big moments.
The film's meta use of including the real Harvey Pekar to tell his own story was unique and refreshing, Giamatti and the rest of the cast inhabiting their roles perfectly. It has the wry humour and down-to-earthness of one of his comics, as well as a tinge of pathos, aided in part by the jazz cuts on the soundtrack. If you're interested in underground/alternative comics, this is a good movie to check out.