Sunday, September 07, 2003

American Splendor (IMDB) (Netflix)
You may remember Harvey Pekar from the first Dave Letterman show; he was the angry guy who didn't quite get the Letterman "this is all a big joke, just play along" schtick. While he was the most unlikely (and ultimately, unsuitable) of celebrities, Pekar's illustrated autobiographical musings American Splendor on life in the Rust Belt had become an underground classic. With Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, Hope Davis as his equally neurotic wife Joyce, and Harvey Pekar as Harvey Pekar (the film occasionally jumps between the actors and the real people).

This was mostly a crowd-pleasing, self-referential comedy. Giamatti is scary-good as Pekar, almost better than the person, in the sense that it Alan Alda was said to have done a better George Plimpton than George Plimpton in Paper Lion. I could have done with less of the arguing between husband and wife, and more of the real Pekar, who naturally has mellowed over time, but in ways that make him more interesting, someone who looks at his angry past with pride, a little bemusement, and a tiny amount of regret.