American Splendor (2003)

(On DVD, September 2005) Given how Harvey Pekar’s “American Splendor” series of comic books is all about the fascinating dullness of ordinary life, it’s entirely appropriate for its movie adaptation to be similarly interesting and boring, with a little real-life twist. Paul Giamatti is Harvey Pekar, but Pekar is also in the film, commenting on what’s being shot about his own life, with friends and family similarly reacting to the depiction of themselves. What’s more, the film regularly makes use of comic book iconology, flipping through actual “American Splendor” illustrations and switching back to film. It’s an unusual approach, maybe even one that makes the film a must-see for serious cinephiles. As far the rest of the content goes, well, it’s about a comic book writer struggling to make ends meet: There isn’t much that’s interesting there, and that is the whole point of the film. American Splendor is remarkably successful at juggling uneasiness with interest, an approach that will either be cause for admiration, boredom or scorn. Or sometimes all three.

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