American Splendor (2003)
The obvious and unpolished dullness of Harvey Pekar - the man whose life this semi-documentary is based upon - is to a large extent what makes this little film the joyous peculiarity it is. The film is a biographic story about a more or less unhappy young man who finds success in making comics about his own small-scale miserys. The result was/is the renowned cartoon magazines American Splendor which has had a central position in the American comic market since the 70's.
The film, by Shari Springer Berman and
Robert Pulcini, thrives on many of the same trivial observations that
the comics do. And it is charming and amusing without necessarily being
neither funny nor interesting. On the form level, however, American
Splendor is structurally creative - erasing the border between
character and actor in a shrewd and well-functioning way. There's a
funny moment when the real Harvey Pekar voices his concern that Paul
Giamatti "looks nothing like me", implicitly stating that he
thinks the actor isn't good-looking enough. It is a solid achievment to
not let this mixing of fiction and documentary corrupt the drama.
Giamatti, who is one of the industry's hidden treasures, is impressive
in the lead. Still, the film cannot completely escape from the fact that
this is a movie about trivial people and not too exclusive events. It is
undeniably cute and clever, but far from powerful.