American Splendor

Clerks it ain't, but clerk it is. Author Harvey Pekar, Bard of the Rust Belt, has spent his life filing med-reports in Cleveland's V.A. hospital. His workaday woes, bouts of numbing loneliness, and hypochondriac harangues found themselves splayed out in the bilious pages of his graphical bio, American Splendor. Transposed to moving image, the series' prismatic autobiography contaminates the cinema screen with a rash of multipersonalities, invasive drawings, and destabilized stagings, with four “Harveys” presented: the drawn, the acted, the real, and the theatrical. Paul Giamatti plays fictional Harvey with a glaring gaze and hurt posture, while Harvey himself is (of course) “real” Harvey, surprisingly free of tony tics, allowing his marvelously whiny voice free reign. When hope arrives (in the form of actress Hope Davis, embodying Harvey's well-deserved devotee Joyce), American Splendor takes on the aspect of an aching romance––middle-aged curmudgeon couples with backwater space-case. Looking in the mirror, Harvey utters, “Now there's a reliable disappointment.” But we differ: Pekar's life among the sour crème de la crème of Cleveland is a splendrous thing to behold.

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