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AMERICAN SPLENDOR

A sensation at Sundance, this is an unorthodox, unscrubbed docudrama about the life and art of Harvey Pekar, the morose creator of the "American Splendor" comics.

CAST: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander, James Urbaniak, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, Toby Radloff, Donal Logue, Molly Shannon, Earl Billings, David Letterman

DIRECTORS: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini

" So far this year, no American movie has provided such rich, unusually satisfying flavors...taking their cue from Pekar’s work, the husband-and-wife team of Berman and Pulcini stretch the boundaries of movie bios…This cubistic approach, blurring the line between the man and his work, gives us the impression we’re seeing the world from inside Pekar’s head…‘American Splendor’ is a painfully funny movie… Yet the most surprising thing about ‘American Splendor’ is how moving it ultimately is…the (qualified) happy ending feels honestly earned, its sweetness all the more potent because it’s been fed by the sour." --David Ansen, Newsweek

"Arriving not a moment too soon, ‘American Splendor’ is a glorious rebuke to all this summer’s recycled, effects-ridden, laboriously ‘fun’ Hollywood disappointments piled along the wayside like so many crashed cars…Written and directed by the husband-and-wife team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, ‘American Splendor’ is every bit as original as its real-life protagonist…What keeps Pekar’s funk from becoming a running joke is the depth of feeling behind it. His underground comic books are almost unbearably poignant, and much of the film is, too…It would be a mistake to regard ‘American Splendor’ as an anthem for the common man. It is the uncommon that is being celebrated here." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"‘American Splendor’ is as inventive as ‘Being John Malkovich,’ as psychologically quirky as ‘Ghost World’ and as honest as the day is long…Pekar, played with a perfection that borders on genius by Paul Giamatti, is billed as a ‘blue-collar Twain,’ but he's just a dyspeptic soul with a twisted mind and a good heart flipping the bird to a harsh world… The conceit that works brilliantly throughout the film is the intercutting of documentary footage of the now-64-year-old Pekar, his wife, Joyce [both shown above], and his autistic friend, Toby, with dramatized scenes with Giamatti, Hope Davis and Judah Friedlander…As we can see from the scenes with the real Pekar, and from his hoarse voice-over narration, Giamatti has the man's halting mannerisms down pat, but he informs them with genuine humanity. He is the classic artist-pessimist, seeing his glass as perpetually half-empty -- but always hoping for rain." --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News

"Filmed and acted to near perfection, it's one of the year's most innovative and exciting pictures. ‘I'm kinda like a class-clown type of guy ... with all these shticks that I do,’ Pekar says. The movie elevates those shticks into life-affirming art -- and entertainment -- as invigorating as anything I've seen in ages." --David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor

"This is the Hope Davis performance we've all been waiting for. As Joyce, she has a sort of radioactive drabness: The dull brown hair hangs defiantly limp, the glasses are freakishly oversized, the voice is a postnasal drip that somehow sings. Harvey and Joyce's first date on-screen, in a yuppie chain restaurant, is a getting-to-know-you scene that will enter the annals of neurasthenic romantic comedy…Davis doesn't flinch as she recites her litany of woes, and Giamatti looks simultaneously smitten and ill, as if Cupid's arrow had been tipped with a gastrointestinal virus…‘American Splendor’—which is more thrilling than ‘Daredevil,’ more powerful than ‘The Hulk,’ and more freakish than ‘X-Men’—is proof that ordinary guys can hold the comics, and the screen, as well as superheroes. This Halloween, I want to be Harvey Pekar." --David Edelstein, Slate

"‘American Splendor’ is the splendid climax to one of the best summers in years on the art-film circuit, with gems like ‘28 Days Later,’ ‘Capturing the Friedmans,’ ‘Whale Rider,’ ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ and so many more. Like many of Hollywood's flaccid seasonal offerings, ‘American Splendor’ is based on a comic book. But fear not, it's the best acted and most emotionally resonant such effort since the indie ‘Ghost World’ looked at another lost soul a couple of years ago…In one scene, a character enthusiastically describes a movie as ‘a story of hope, of tolerance.’ He's talking about ‘The Revenge of the Nerds,’ but it applies more accurately to the sweet and sour treat that is ‘American Splendor,’ one of the year's best movies." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"‘American Splendor’ is a jazzy and humane synthesis of the comic books that Cleveland writer Harvey Pekar has for 25 years fashioned from the dross of his daily life. The movie is clever, engaging, and cannily faux populist…‘American Splendor’ is the icing on the anti-careerist cake that Pekar wants to eat and have as well." --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"…such gimmickry requires a more complex and fascinating subject than this working-class grouch-turned-minor celebrity…The film’s plethora of unnecessary compositional devices, rather than providing us with diverse portraits of Pekar (as the illustrators of his books did by drawing him in wildly different styles), come across as distracting affectations bent on obscuring the fact that the writer’s story doesn’t have the heft required to sustain a feature film…There are a few hilarious sequences that capture the essence of Pekar’s frustration-imbued prose, --but the stream of inside jokes included for Pekar aficionados makes one feel as though the filmmakers are aggressively courting those fans in the hope that they’ll elevate the film to cult status a la ‘Crumb’ and ‘Ghost World’ (two better films that chart similar milieus)." --Nicholas Schager, Slant Magazine

"A film that achieves the dream of full integration -- subject, media, music and attitude – ‘American Splendor’ was easily the best U.S. feature at Sundance this year…among the qualities that won over audiences, including this one, was the delicacy with which directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini handled the unpredictable quantity that is Pekar, a writer, accidental social critic and hospital file clerk whose disgruntled air is his calling card…‘American Splendor’ is funny, clever, tender and wry." --John Anderson, Newsday

"As played by Paul Giamatti, Harvey is a gray wad of anger that spends his time in his cavelike apartment, with shelves sagging under the weight of his collection of record albums and jazz 78's, sputtering to his equally powerless pals about a world that he refuses to understand. Slumped into a posture that's a question mark with a pot belly, Mr. Giamatti is a frustrated tremor, shaking and gesticulating futilely…Film really can't evince the working-class subversion of Mr. Pekar's ‘Splendor’ comics, but the movie brings its own take on Harvey's life to the screen. It neither embarrasses nor condescends." --Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"In his first major film role, character player Giamatti never fails to find the humanity and clenched hope behind Pekar's drooping, scowling facade -- while always remaining faithful to the truth of that facade. Davis, a good actress who just keeps getting better, turns Harvey's take-charge-depressive wife Joyce into a deadpan comic marvel all her own, but one of so many intellectual and emotional dimensions that her every droll pronouncement bears as much poignancy as sting…Harvey Pekar may not be a guy you'd want to spend a lot of time with in reality…Yet his take on reality is so unrelentingly true and illuminating, even as artful a presentation as this movie can do very little to dilute it. And that's a splendid thing." --Bob Strauss, LA Daily News

"This soon-to-be minor classic is the best movie about society's untrendiest since ‘Ghost World’ exactly two years ago…Warm but not sentimental, ‘Splendor’ is the latest little movie to redeem the summer. Films made on the fringes of the system are now doing most of the heavy lifting — of major-studio coffins." --Mike Clark, USA Today