Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 2003. Good Machine, Dark Horse Entertainment. Screenplay by Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, based on the comic book series American Splendor by Harvey Pekar, and the comic book series Our Cancer Year by Joyce Brabner. Cinematography by Terry Stacey. Produced by Ted Hope. Music by Mark Suozzo. Production Design by Therese DePrez. Costume Design by Michael Wilkinson. Film Editing by Robert Pulcini.
The second, non-special effects-laden film to come out of a graphic novel or comic strip turns out to be almost as good as the first (Ghost World). Harvey Pekar, a painfully ordinary guy with an equally average life, started serializing his personal experiences in graphic form thanks to the inspiration of his highly successful artist pal Robert Crumb (subject of the documentary Crumb, which was directed by Ghost World‘s director Terry Zwigoff). This textured film features interviews with the real Pekar and his wife Joyce Brabner in between various exceptionally well-acted scenes starring Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis as the quirky couple.
Pekar has a mind-numbing job in a hospital filing room, and sadly never makes enough off of his comics to get himself out of that mundane day job. He does, however, find within the confines of his job and his social life the inspiration needed to keep doing his work. Giamatti definitely gets a lot of attention for his work, but the shocking revelation comes from a nearly unrecognisable Davis as Brabner; losing her pretty blond hair and hiding behind a giant pair of glasses, Davis is uncannily similar in voice and manner to the real person and gives even her smallest moments a lot of dramatic weight. James Urbaniak is also fantastic in his too few scenes as the incredibly odd Crumb. Directed with finesse and a creative style that thankfully never gets ahead of itself, this is a witty and intelligent examination of some very interesting characters.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Adapted Screenplay
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Hope Davis)