|Shari Springer Berman Director|
|Robert Pulcini Director|
Biopic about comic book writer and file clerk Harvey Pekar. Based on his comic book series of the same name.
Toby has an epiphany when he watches this film. Harvey does not care for it.
19 More Quotes
I consider myself a nerd.
|Harvey Pekar||comic book series American Splendor and|
|Shari Springer Berman|
|Paul Giamatti||Harvey Pekar|
|Hope Davis||Joyce Brabner|
|Harvey Pekar||Real Harvey|
|Daniel Tay||Young Harvey|
|Shari Springer Berman||Interviewer|
|Larry John Meyers||Throat Doctor|
|Earl Billings||Mr. Boats|
|See Full Credits|
American Splendor is a 2003 adaptation of Harvey Pekar's titular autobiographical comic book series, making it also a biopic of the writer's life. It tells the story of Harvey Pekar's real-life job as a hospital file clerk, the creation of the "American Splendor" comic series, his personal life, and his battle with cancer. The film combines biopic dramatizations with animations, archive footage, filmed interviews with the real "American Splendor" cast, and art ripped from the original comic.
The movie casts Paul Giamatti as Harvey, Hope Davis as his fan-turned-wife, Joyce, and Judha Friedlander as his nerd-embracing co-worker, Toby. Harvey Pekar himself cameos in the film as a narrator and as himself, along with the real-life versions of the characters from the movie.
Since 1980, a film adaptation of "American Splendor" had been a goal for comic book writer, and hospital file clerk, Harvey Pekar. According to the "American Splendor" story "The American Splendor Movie" he saw that a movie would be a superb way to make extra money for his family, knowing that his comic book work and retirement pension would not be enough to support them in the long run. Attempts to create an "American Splendor" film had fallen through in-between 1980 and 2001, with multiple directors canning the project due to a lack of sufficient funds. Prospective directors and producers included Jonathan Demme, Brent Capra, and Alan Sacks. Even a Los Angeles theater group put together a well-received stage adaptation of the comic; a performance brought up in the final film.
In 1999, Dean Haspiel, one of "American Splendor"'s artists, had informed Pekar that Ted Hope, a producer with connections to indie-film company Good Machine, was interested in making an "American Splendor" film. Having failed to initially follow up on it, an agreement option was eventually put together between Hope and Harvey's wife, Joyce, on his behalf. Hope asked Pekar to put together a script, though Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, who would also direct the film, later wrote a “better” one. Ted pitched the script to HBO's movie vice-president, Maud Nadler, who agreed to finance the film.
began in November of 2001; one month after age and constant panic attacks
convinced Harvey Pekar to retire after 37 years of being a file clerk. (A
dramatization of Pekar's retirement is shown in the film.)
film is a combination of a biopic and a documentary, jumping between
dramatizations of Harvey Pekar's life and interviews with the real-life Pekar,
as well as his wife Joyce and his former co-worker Toby. The latter scenes
further explain Pekar's relationships with other characters, as well as show
the audience just how true to the actual person the film tried to be. The film
also incorporates archive footage of Harvey Pekar, mostly through clips from
his appearances on Late Night with David Letterman.
film is also accompanied by comic book visuals, featuring the artwork of
"American Splendor", which are sometimes animated.
Harvey Pekar is an ordinary man living in the slums of 1970's Cleveland, Ohio. After voice problems destroyed his second marriage he now lives the life of a bachelor, living on government wages and spending his time outside of work collecting old jazz records and comic books. It’s through these interests that he meets future underground comix artist Robert Crumb, who had recently moved to Cleveland. The two begin to hang out, but Robert later moves to San Francisco after his career in comics starts to take off. Pekar, on the other hand, is not so lucky. Harvey Pekar is a working-class stiff, having worked dead-end jobs up until being employed as a file clerk at a local veteran's hospital. As the drudgery continues, his outlook on life becomes bleaker and bleaker.
day, he comes to the conclusion that he's going nowhere in life and that he
needs to turn things around. Inspired by the work of his friend, but not being
a trained artist, he starts writing comics. He begins writing stories that are
simply about his life, his first being based on watching an old Jewish woman hold up
the line at a local grocery store. Putting together a few stories, he pitches
his idea to Crumb. Pekar believes that there are too many comics about superheroes
and "funny animals": ultimately nothing that anybody could truly relate to. Crumb, liking Pekar's writing, asks to illustrate his stories, thus creating "American
Splendor", an autobiographical comic with multiple artists, turns Harvey into a local celebrity and a recognized name in the
comic world. But Pekar remains at his day job with little changed in his
attitude and financial position. In 1984, he begins seeing a young fan named
Joyce Prebar, who he invites over to Cleveland and marries almost immediately,
per her suggestion. However, the couple has a rocky relationship, constantly
arguing about her unwillingness to find a job. The success of his comic
brings him into the national spotlight. He becomes a frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman and even his co-worker, "American Splendor" regular Toby Rodloff, begins
appearing in ads for MTV. Even a Los Angeles theater group puts together a play based off of the comic.
But Pekar soon becomes disgusted at his fame and the
media's exploitation of people like him. The aforementioned MTV ads practically
exploit Toby's newfound post- Revenge of the Nerds nerdom and Harvey has allowed
himself to become a caricature on Letterman. Additionally, he is growing ever
so concerned about a lump he found on his genitals which keeps him from
focusing on work. Meanwhile, Joyce has flown to Israel for research on comic
book she plans to write about children in warzones, leaving Harvey painfully
alone. This adds to his self-loathing. He feels that while she's out
"saving the world" he is turning into a sell-out. So for his next
appearance on Letterman he protests CBS, who had recently been
bought out by General Electric, and tells off Letterman as well as his
But soon, Harvey’s luck turns sourer. After Joyce returns, she too notices the lump and they learn from their doctor that he has lymphoma. Joyce suggests to a miserable Harvey that he should make a special comic about his experience, an idea he initially rejects under the idea that he just isn't "strong enough". So Joyce, instead, starts writing "Our Cancer Year" herself and has one of "American Splendor"'s artists, Frank Stack (referred to as "Fred" in the movie) illustrate the comic. Soon, Harvey agrees to the project. The week after the project starts, Harvey begins his treatment with every agonizing event being chronicled in the book. One evening, he asks Joyce if he is really the star of the book, or just a character that will continue once he dies and promptly falls over unconscious. In the scene soon after, Harvey tells the audience the story of the numerous Harvey Pekars who lived in Cleveland throughout the years asking "who is Harvey Pekar"?
Harvey completes his treatment and his cancer clears out. "Our Cancer Year" is released as a graphic novel and is given rave reviews and awards. The Pekars also adopt Frank's daughter, Danielle. She had accompanied Frank and the Pekars during Harvey's treatment and, with Joyce having grown to like her, Frank believed that she'd have a better life with them since her mother had "run off." By film's end, the real Harvey Pekar points out that this shouldn't be confused as a happy ending, saying that his life is still "total chaos." The film ends with the VA hospital holding a retirement party for the real-life Harvey, showing the real versions of his co-workers, family, and panning over to the comic made about the film's production.