I was fortunate enough to see an advance screening a few months back and I heartily recommend this film to anyone and everyone, whether you’re a fan of the comic or not.
Those of you expecting another Crumb are going to be pleasantly surprised. While Crumb was in many ways a traditional documentary highlighting the bizarre qualities of R. Crumb and his family, American Splendor is an innovative, exciting mixture of documentary, docudrama and animation that really “makes you think.” It uses the motif of writer Harvey Pekar’s autobiographical comics to explore issues of persona and identity, while simultaneously detailing the dramas of an “average Joe.”
Pekar, who has worked with R. Crumb and other alternative comics legends, is a fascinating grump, an auto-didact, a man who has made very few compromises — for better or worse. The performances — especially by Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis (as Pekar and wife Joyce Brabner) — are flawless, and the merging of documentary and dramatic retelling is inspired. As a frequent collaborator with Harvey on American Splendor, I admit to some bias, but I have no hesitation at all in recommending this brilliant film. See American Splendor! (Also, check out HarveyPekar.com, which features ongoing blogs by Harvey, Joyce and their foster daughter Danielle, as well art by Dean Haspiel.)