Pin It
Favorite

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

  • Rich Man, Poor Men
  • Rich Man, Poor Men

    Can the wealthiest U.S. president ever help the poorest U.S. citizens?
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • La Résistance
  • La Résistance

    Michael Moore, Congressional Democrats and local progressives: How they are resisting Donald Trump's agenda
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Must-See TV?
  • Must-See TV?

    Alternatives to the inauguration (and how to make watching more fun if you have to)
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Women's March on Spokane

Women's March on Spokane @ Spokane Convention Center

Sat., Jan. 21, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

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

  • Thanks, Obama

    The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

scandal


scandals


Comment


Briefs


green zone


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Care in Crisis
  • Care in Crisis

    Why did seven psych ward doctors quit their jobs at Sacred Heart?
    • Jun 17, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation