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The Independent Critic

Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Harvey Pekar
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Rated R
101 Mins.
HBO/Fine Line (Theatrical)
Warner Home Video
 "An American Splendor" Review 

This is a solidly entertaining but somewhat detached look at underground comic Harvey Pekar. Featuring an outstanding performance by Paul Giamatti, who simply owns this role, the film blossoms thanks to its Oscar-nominated script by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Pekar is, of course, quite the unique character and this is beautifully portrayed by Giamatti. Perhaps it is this uniqueness that created most of my struggle with the film. Pekar is really never totally likeable...or unlikable for that matter...much of the time he's just an average Joe living an average existence. I also enjoyed Hope Davis in the role of his wife, Joyce Brabner...and the recall of his appearances on David Letterman's show. James Urbaniak does a dead-on impression of Robert Crumb, who illustrated the works of Pekar...and the supporting cast is all solid. The film features fun "small" performances by Pekar himself and even Molly Shannon.

This is a beautifully shot, uniquely directed film that it would be impossible to not enjoy on some level. Yet I had a hard time emotionally connecting to it. Even during Pekar's cancer challenges, I had a hard time caring about his welfare. This lack of connection keeps me from putting this film in the "A" range...but, thanks to a well-developed script, strong performances and unique construction I give it a solid B+. Fans of independent, unique cinema should enjoy this film and fans of Crumb and Pekar simply must see this film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic