American Splendor


Top 20% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

2003 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Dramatic Competition


Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander

Non-Cast Credits

Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, Ted Hope, Julia King, Terry Stacey, Therese DePrez, Mark Suozzo


Harvey Pekar works as the VA hospital in his hometown of Cleveland and fills his days with reading, writing, listening to jazz, and engaging in cerebral banter. When his buddy Robert Crumb earns wide acclaim for comic art, Harvey is inspired to write his own brand of comic books, and he makes the monotonous torture of his everyday foibles their focus. American Splendor is hugely successful, but Harvey still finds his life lacking. Enter the equally depressive Joyce Braber, and united correspondence the pair tackle life together.

Filmmaker team Shari Springer Berman and Paul Pulcini blow up all rules of the bipic and find just the right cinematic voice for their subject. Using film, video, and animation, they ingeniously construct a structure in which images of the real-life Harvey are intercut with that of his onscreen persona, flawlessly recreated by Paul Glamatti. The result is seamless, effective, and undeniably unique. The animated sequences, like comics, add spunk and spontaneity. A film undertaking of this nature takes gut and skill, and this filmmaking team has both. As with Harvey's own creation, they have on their hand on their hands a truly one-of-a-kind creation.


John Cooper (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.