American Splendor – In All Its Splendor

27 Jun


The Book / Comics

Harvey becomes obsessed with small issues in life (and then eventually the larger issues including cancer). The premise is that a comic can be more than escape from real life; it can be a celebration of the good, the bad and even the ordinary. While this is somewhat surprising and interesting, to some, it might completely defeats the purpose of reading. In this comic, reading is no longer an escape; it exists to encourage self-reflection and celebrate the ordinary.

The Film

How a movie like this was approved by the studio let alone made any money is a wonder. Some might consider walking out on this movie…  even if they were on an airplane. Those unfamiliar with the comic series would have difficulty appreciating the unique perspective of Pekar and his wry humor. This was a sad man working at Veterans Affairs; without this comic and inciteful graphic novel about his cancer treatments, he made no difference whatsoever.

The Adaptation

The movie was a nice spin on the book. The interplay between the characters was excellent and the staging of both the commentary, Pekar’s life and his works was seamless. Giamatti was brilliant in his portrayal of Pekar and was one of this movie’s most redeeming features.

The Critics

Pinkerton enjoyed the wit of this movie. He appreciated the intense look at Pekar’s life and encourage movie-goers to see it. He referred to it as “melancholic meditation”.  Taubin agreed with this emphasis on personal reflection and referred to this movie as “hyper-reflexive”.  Axmaker was similarly moved by the film, noting that the romance between Joyce and Harvey was well portrayed and moving on screen.

The Critical Argument

Pekar is a typical man with typical problems. However, it is his “Debbie Downer” or “Eeyore” attitude that draws audiences to his comics. He expresses the world as only he can see it. This honesty is refreshing… albeit depressing. The books are somewhat less depressing than the film, although both celebrate Pekar’s unique spin on life. Mitchell referred to this movie as “moody and cantankerous” and most other critics agree.

Works Cited

Axmaker, Sean. “‘American Splendor’s’ working-class hero more paunch than panache.” Movies. Seattle PI, 21 Aug. 2003. Web. 25 June 2015.

Hope, Ted, Robert Pulcini, Shari S. Berman, Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander, James Urbaniak, Earl Billings, James McCaffrey, Maggie Moore, Vivienne Benesch, Terry Stacey, Harvey Pekar, and Joyce Brabner. American Splendor. New York, NY: HBO Video, 2004.

Pekar, Harvey, Kevin Brown, and Gregory Budgett. American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar : Stories. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003. Kindle Edition.

Pinkerton, Nick. American Splendor. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 5 Sept. 2003. Web. 16 May 2015.

Taubin, Amy. Sundance 2003: Splendor in the Margins. Film Comment, Mar. 2003. Web. 16 May 2015.


One Response to “American Splendor – In All Its Splendor”

  1. maayanr5 June 30, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    I do agree that Pekar’s spin on life is unique. While his comics are entertaining, it definitely seems to be aimed towards a certain type of audience. He doesn’t focus on the traditional comic book style, but he brought realism into the comic book platform, which is unique in its own sense.

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