After weeks of sitting around and collecting dust (uh, not me, the DVD), I made time and watched American Splendor. It’s a 2003 movie starring Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, the creater of the American Splendor comic book. What a odd, odd movie. I heard good things about the film years ago when it originally debuted, but never got around to watching it. I was under the impression that it was another Hollywood biopic.
The answer is yes and no. It does have Giamatti, Hope Davis, and other actors playing the original Harvey, the original Joyce, etc. And yet, the real Harvey, the real Joyce, etc, also appear to talk about the film. They’re interviewed, they talk about stuff. At one point, you even see Paul Giamatti complete a scene, then walk over and watch the interview with Harvey from a director chair. How weird is it to watch a biopic that features both actors, and the original subjects also are filmed discussing their lives, the comic books, and how it feels to be depicted onscreen by actors?
It was certainly a different kind of film. When Harvey was on Letterman’s Late Show back in the 80’s, the film intersperses it with actual footage, and the real Harvey is on screen in the footage. According to IMDB, the film won a few awards, and was nominated for a few major awards, including Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay back in 2004.