American Splendor
  • American Splendor
  • American Splendor

American Splendor

4.0 3
Director: Robert Pulcini

Cast: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis


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The story of independent comic writer and everyman Harvey Pekar comes to life in the American Splendor DVD from HBO Video. Packed with extras and wonderful animated menus, the disc is a perfect companion to the critically acclaimed film and one that should be good for more than a few repeat viewings. Technically, its 1.33:1 picture makes for a fine presentationSee more details below


The story of independent comic writer and everyman Harvey Pekar comes to life in the American Splendor DVD from HBO Video. Packed with extras and wonderful animated menus, the disc is a perfect companion to the critically acclaimed film and one that should be good for more than a few repeat viewings. Technically, its 1.33:1 picture makes for a fine presentation for the film's brownish, worn look, while the 5.1 Dolby audio track also does a commendable job for the picture's jazz score and low-key audio levels (a stereo track is also available). Extras begin with a group audio commentary track that's well worth the disc's price tag and one that will be remembered for a long time to come! Featuring both directors, along with star Paul Giamatti and the real-life Harvey Pekar, his wife Joyce Brabner, and their adopted daughter, Danielle Batone, the commentary is a blast (especially with real-life nerd Toby Radloff and his actor-twin Judah Friedlander joining in on the fun, too). From virtually anything that Toby says to Harvey taking a cell phone call during the taping, you never quite know where the track will head next -- making it a brilliant standout among the usual Hollywood tripe written off as commentaries at the time of this release. Extras continue with the six-minute HBO featurette "Road to Splendor," as the cameras and microphones follow Harvey and his family through various film festivals and screenings. Other extras include an audio version of Eytan Mirsky's "American Splendor" song (as seen in the film during the stage adaptation), along with the original theatrical trailer and a spot for other HBO productions. Also included inside the packaging is the My Movie Year comic book (written by Harvey with art by Gary Dumm and colorist Laura Dumm) that chronicles the years leading up to and after the film was completed. Finally, there's a wonderful DVD-ROM segment featuring an animated Harvey and Toby eating hamburgers and talking about the DVD, with additional icons, wallpapers, and screensavers for you to sink your teeth into.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
For sheer audacity, it's hard to beat American Splendor, which mixes reality and make-believe in a dazzling tour de force. Based on the highly regarded graphic novel of the same name, Splendor follows the everyday exploits of Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti), a self-described "schlub" who works as a file clerk in a veterans' hospital by day and collects books and records the rest of the time. Inspired to write a comic-book account of his daily life -- putting all his gripes, insecurities, and paranoia into print -- Pekar becomes a cult celebrity and attracts the attentions of Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis), a comic-shop manager who's a bit of a schlub herself. Husband-and-wife directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, documentary makers for whom this is a fiction debut, could have adapted Pekar's story in a straightforward manner, but they spice things up by including footage of the real Pekar and Brabner, blurring the line between fiction and reality. Moreover, some sequences unfold in comic-book style, moving in and out of the world created in the live-action footage. Pekar's existential angst translates to film surprisingly well, thanks in no small part to Giamatti, usually a dependable supporting player, who here proves himself eminently capable of carrying a picture. Davis, a talented performer with an impressive track record of playing vulnerable, emotionally damaged characters, is equally impressive as Brabner; seeing the real Joyce on screen will demonstrate just how well Davis captured her. For all the inspired kvetching -- which is what made Pekar an underground sensation and earned him invites to David Letterman's TV show -- American Splendor has a puckish, buoyant tone that makes it irresistible. It's one of the most imaginative movies you're likely to see in a very long time.
All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
The best thing about the film adaptation of American Splendor is that it captures Harvey Pekar's unique voice, and the comic book's bristly tone. This is no small feat. Directors/screenwriters Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini cannily integrate documentary footage of Pekar, his wife, Joyce Brabner, and others commenting on the film and the real events that the film depicts. A black-and-white animated version of Pekar also appears frequently. At one point, Pekar (Paul Giamatti) leaves Brabner (Hope Davis) in the green room to appear on David Letterman's show. Davis watches the monitor as actual footage of Pekar's appearance is seen on the monitor. The filmmakers sacrifice some narrative momentum with their technique, but it's well worth it because American Splendor ends up capturing Pekar in all his uncompromisingly grizzled glory in a way that a straightforward biopic wouldn't have. Pekar has always tried to avoid pandering to his audience, and to the filmmakers' credit, they don't try to soft-pedal him; even when dealing with a character's terminal illness, they avoid any kind of sentimentality. Giamatti delivers a wonderfully cranky performance in the title role, while Davis is dependably superb as the hypochondriac and insanely impulsive Brabner. James Urbaniak brings depth to what could have been a cartoonish role as comic book artist Robert Crumb, while Judah Friedlander is surprisingly spot-on as the genuinely cartoonish Toby Radloff, Pekar's longtime friend and co-worker. Pekar's brittle relationships with Brabner and Radloff set the tone for the film. These aren't lovable goofballs, so much as full-bodied characters of whom one's opinion changes, depending on how they're behaving in a particular scene. The filmmakers allow the viewer to make up his or her own mind about these complex people, and that is the best service they could have paid to Pekar's work.
Entertainment Weekly - Lisa Schwarzbaum
American Splendor presents Pekar as drawn on the page, Pekar as brilliantly interpreted by Paul Giamatti, and the actual Pekar, in the double role of narrator and interview subject -- sometimes all at once. The magic act is thrilling, and truly surprising.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert

This film is delightful in the way it finds its own way to tell its own story. There was no model to draw on, but Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who wrote and directed it, have made a great film by trusting to Pekar's artistic credo.
Boston Globe - Ty Burr
The movie is pricelessly comic -- the Harvey/Joyce scenes catalog the couple's neuroses with glee -- but it just as often reaches for something richer.
The New Yorker - Anthony Lane
Behind the playfulness, it cleaves to an oddly old-fashioned belief that a life, even a life as mangy as Mr. Pekar’s, gains in depth and darkness when it is crosshatched with the imaginary. The nerd needs no revenge.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Hbo Home Video
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Surround]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Group audio commentary with directors and cast (including Harvey Pekar); HBO featurette "Road to Splendor"; Audio version of Eytan Mirsky's "American Splendor" song Original theatrical trailer; Trailers for other HBO productions; Animated menus; Harvey Pekar's "My Movie Year" comic book insert; Website downloads; DVD-ROM features

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Giamatti Harvey Pekar
Hope Davis Joyce Brabner
Harvey Pekar Real Harvey
Shari Springer Berman Interviewer
James Urbaniak Robert Crumb
Judah Friedlander Toby Radloff
Earl Billings Mr. Boats
Joyce Brabner Real Joyce
Madylin Sweeten Danielle
James McCaffrey Fred
Danielle Batone Real Danielle
Maggie Moore Alice Quinn

Technical Credits
Shari Springer Berman Director,Screenwriter
Robert Pulcini Director,Editor,Screenwriter
Linda Cohen Musical Direction/Supervision
Therese DePrez Production Designer
Robert Desue Set Decoration/Design
Ann Goulder Casting
Ted Hope Producer
Julia King Associate Producer
Whit Norris Sound/Sound Designer
Chip Signore Asst. Director
Terry Stacey Cinematographer
Mark Suozzo Score Composer
Twinkle Animator
Michael Wilkinson Costumes/Costume Designer

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Story Begins... [3:39]
2. Here's Our Man [4:18]
3. Flunky File Clerk [3:11]
4. Bob and Harv [5:14]
5. Standing Behind Old Jewish Ladies in Supermarket Line [5:04]
6. Words and Pictures [2:14]
7. From off the Streets of Cleveland [3:49]
8. Jellybeans, Lentils and Lent [4:55]
9. Alice Quinn and Jennie Gerhardt [4:43]
10. Dear Mr. Pekar... [4:28]
11. I Think We Should Skip the Whole Courtship Thing [7:25]
12. What Kind of Girl Is Your New Bride? [4:49]
13. Signs of Trouble [2:38]
14. Delusions of Grandeur [4:05]
15. Late Night With Harvey Pekar [10:06]
16. Startin' to Lost It [4:17]
17. You F----d Up a Great Thing [3:28]
18. Our Cancer Year [6:14]
19. Treatment Begins [1:52]
20. Who Is Harvey Pekar? [4:32]
21. Part of the Story [6:18]
22. Credits [3:38]


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