American Splendor

American Splendor DVD coverOn January 20, 2003 First Line Features’ film American Splendor premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.  Paul Giamatti stars in the movie as real life cartoonist Harvey Pekar.  Pekar, working as a file clerk at a VA hospital in Ohio, has little beyond books, music and conversations with his coworkers to break up the monotony of his simple, blasé life.  When an acquaintance of Harvey’s, Robert Crumb, achieves success as a cartoonist, Harvey decides that he too can make a living in this field, writing a series based on his own ordinary, everyman life.  Composed of unglamorous stories about a likeable but downtrodden man, Pekar’s American Splendor comic book series becomes a cult classic outside of the mainstream and Harvey is surprised to find himself a sort of celebrity icon.  He also finds his true love in the equally offbeat Joyce Barber, played by actress Hope Davis.  Pekar and Barber both appear in the film at different points playing themselves, and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini use many unique devices to tell the story, including interspersing animated footage with live action shots.  American Splendor was nominated for a 2003 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at Sundance.