I remember seeing Harvey Pekar on Late Night with David Letterman back in the day, but I had no idea who he was and I didn’t particularly care. At the time I knew nothing about comic books, except what I knew about them from my youth…strong men and women in cool outfits saved the world repeatedly. Little did I know that in the underground scene there was a world in which cats got it on with wayward women and that file clerks in Cleveland chronicled their humdrum lives in the “funny books”. But that’s exactly what Harvey Pekar was doing. Inspired by his friend Robert Crumb’s success (with the pornographic cat, among many other subjects), Pekar started writing about his mundane existence.
I would never get into the American Splendor comics, because as a Fan-Boy, I couldn’t deal with the “ugly” art, but watching this movie, a biography on Pekar…almost a docu-drama really, I couldn’t help but notice that old Harv and myself have quite a few things in common.
For one, with both miserable old grumps, with basically antisocial personality flaws.
And I like to think, that deep down inside, there’s a pretty good heart, if you can find it.
And then there’s the obsession with collecting stuff, mostly records and books.
Definitely sounds familiar.
While we occasionally see the real Harvey Pekar in the film, for the most part he is portrayed by the brilliant Paul Giamatti. I hope to high Heaven that Giamatti gets some recognition come Oscar time, because he’s just incredible, in both mimicking Pekar, and in acting in general. Truly a wonderful, heartfelt performance.
Hope Davis plays his wife Joyce, and she too is great. Joyce too has issues, and Davis does a great job with the role. I dunno how close she is to the real Joyce, but I would imagine the movie’s writer-directors, who did a great job , by the way, especially when mixing elements from the comic into the film, gave her a good idea of how the real Joyce behaves. Not to mention that apparently the real couple was on the set a bit too.
This movie is a little slow at times, but hey, that’s real life.
Hell, my life is always in slow mode.
But the heart and humor and great performances make it very worth watching.