#52 in my movie challenge for the year is American Splendor, about indie comic author Harvey Pekar. I’ve never read Pekar’s comics, but many people recommended this film, including some who didn’t read comic books at all. Plus Pekar is appearing at the Twin Cities Book Fest this weekend where he will be interviewed by Mary Lucia, who happens to be one of my husband G. Grod’s fantasy girlfriends. (Even our toddler Drake knows her name. G. will get home from work, turn on The Current, and when Mary’s voice comes on, Drake will look up and say, “Mary!” I don’t blame them for being enamored. She is pretty cool.)
American Splendor is also the name of Pekar’s comic. He is a grumpy everyman writing about his anger and frustration with everyday life. The film is exceedingly well-crafted, with excellent performances by Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as Pekar’s wife. It intersperses their performances with taped clips of the real Pekar’s appearances on The Late Show, as well as with narration and appearances by the real Pekar, his wife and friends, and animated sequences and written narration. It is a fascinating biography that combines film, documentary and comic books. Slow moving at first, with an off-putting main character, both the film and its subjects won me over in the end.