American Splendor (2003)

Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini

Husband and wife team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini created one of the very best films of 2003 with this adaptation of the life of “American Splendor” comic book writer and creator Harvey Pekar. Creative and surprising in its storytelling structure, the film alternates between documentary footage of the real Harvey Pekar along with friends and family and the actual fiction film itself. Brilliant, touching and admirable in its simplicity and humanity-- some of the film’s very best moments probably would’ve been left on the cutting room floor if it would’ve been written and produced with strict adherence to the traditional Hollywood three act structure. The people in the film are real—- they breathe and feel and it’s riveting for the viewer. For example, in one of my favorite scenes, Harvey runs into a former college classmate at a local bakery and the two share stories and literature recommendations before venturing home. This subtle, brief encounter highlights the preciousness of life and the seemingly random human connections we find around each corner. I love the segue right into the introduction of Harvey’s wife-to-be Joyce, wonderfully played by Hope Davis who manages to steal most of her scenes away from the always exceptional Paul Giamatti. Destined to gain in popularity on DVD, I believe American Splendor will become a cult-favorite and fans of Ed Wood should take note.