Pin It

DVD Review 

by Marty Demarest

I love movies about sub-cultures. Whether it's about drug users, transvestites or fundamentalists, you can sign me up for any movie that takes a look at a small group that the rest of the world tries to forget. There's something defiant, and comforting, in a group of people that flips the rest of the world the finger and gets on with their lives, no matter how different that makes them.

Harvey Pekar is a man who belongs to one of the largest sub-cultures around: average people. There isn't anything extraordinary about Pekar, at least fundamentally. And the fact that he seems to resist making himself feel or seem special has helped him to become a spokesman for the ordinary.

Pekar, who writes jazz criticism when he can find the work, has developed a niche market writing comic books about his life. But since Pekar can't draw, he's hired other artists -- like R. Crumb -- to draw the art for him. The results, like the film American Splendor, are both blisteringly funny and uncomfortably realistic.

In adapting Pekar's work for film, co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have followed a similarly unconventional path. Since Pekar's only real story is the story of his life, the directors chose to cast an actor (Paul Giamatti) as Pekar, and an actress (Hope Davis) as his wife (who also writes comic books about her life). But they also let the real couple come onscreen, to comment on their artistic representations. Seeing real people watching a couple of actors playing them is strange. It's also very funny. Much of the rest of the film is dreary. I think we're meant to experience Pekar's strange and ordinary world in its full splendor.

However, despite all of the film's outside-of-the-box style, at its heart this is a movie about people who don't insist that they're special. While it lasts, it's charming. When the movie stops, however, and you open up Entertainment Weekly to find a comic by Pekar, or see him on television (or catch him this April at Spokane's Get Lit! literary festival), you realize he's a celebrity. Is being average his act? If it is, then American Splendor is one of the strangest films ever. It's about a man acting as a man who's acting as a man. Only in America is our ordinary this extraordinary.

Publication date: 02/19/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Masters of 
Eminent Domain
  • Masters of Eminent Domain

    The city relies on a rarely used power to force a property sale — but was forcing the issue really necessary?
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • 'Bigger To-Do List'
  • 'Bigger To-Do List'

    Efforts to include racial distinctions in SPD data stall; plus, Obama stumps for Inslee
    • Jun 30, 2016

    Meet the new president of the Spokane NAACP
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Marty Demarest

  • The Cowboy's Cowboy
  • The Cowboy's Cowboy

    A Canadian sings about the life —  not just the lifestyle — of the new West
    • May 15, 2013
  • Completing the Trilogy
  • Completing the Trilogy

    Mass Effect has finally arrived
    • May 23, 2012
  • Minecraft
  • Minecraft

    Adventure and survival too often give way to mindless crafts in this building-block simulator.
    • Feb 8, 2012
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Felonious Judgment

    A community of hope and restoration can be ours with fair chance hiring
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • A Thin Résumé

    With zero experience in the public policy arena, Donald Trump needs to start listening to those who do have it
    • Jun 9, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • A Senseless Death
  • A Senseless Death

    Family and friends search for answers in the wake of an unsolved South Hill killing
    • Dec 3, 2014
  • Hedging Bets
  • Hedging Bets

    The Coeur d'Alene Tribe cancels the Julyamsh Powwow; plus, here comes the 8th Man movement
    • Feb 5, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation