March 26, 2004

American Splendor

"Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

This is the tagline, the synopsis, the thesis, and could serve as the review of the movie American Splendor. American Splendor is so not allegory (see take on Pleasantville). This is reality -- so real you can hardly take it sometimes. If two people can somehow find joy in their own despair, Harvey and Joyce Pekar do.

What you get here is just the facts ma'am. Harvey's common life is somehow made excellent and wonderful just through stark portrayal, first in the comic books, and now in this brilliant movie. Any movie that can leave you with the feeling this one did, utilizing this subject matter, has to be brilliant. Harvey is so unbelievably believable as the file clerk in the basement of the hospital with the equally neurotic wife who found him through his comic books that you absolutely have no choice but to totally love him, not in spite of his shortcomings, but purely because of them. He shows very few longcomings so the former is all you've got to work with.

Harvey is obviously a genius in his own way. But the genius of simplicity is sometimes the greatest genius of all. How much genius does it take to simply lay your life down in comic book panels, word for word, exactly how it happens, no edits?

Maybe it doesn't take genius so much as balls.

Goethe said that boldness has genius in it so maybe one doesn't go without the other.

Harvey Pekar reminds me of Bukowski. Charles didn't exactly indulge in superhero fantasies himself -- he pretty much stuck to the script as he saw it happen outside (and inside) his window. Sticking to real life effectively, is the essence of brilliance.

The way this film blends realities is amazing. The fictional portrayal of Harvey is narrated by Harvey himself, and then from time to time you go into the studio where he is laying down the voice tracks. There you also might see real life versions of the characters in the story being told.

Toby's existence is some kind of anomaly. I cannot believe that there is a person on this earth who really acts like that. It says a lot for Harvey's condition that he would attract somebody so totally weird into his reality.

Now I need to find Crumb so my wife can watch it. I guess I'd like to see it again myself now. Before seeing American Splendor my interest in reseeing Crumb was tepid at best. Robert Crumb's story is weirder than Harvey's, but more on the perverse side, so as to leave you disturbed. Harvey's got a good heart. I saw Crumb is available on Movielink.

Harvey, his wife and daughter all have weblogs on his page. However, they don't update often.

Posted by Wayne at March 26, 2004 11:30 PM
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