American Splendor (PG)
DIRECTED BY: Shari Springer Berman
STARRING: Paul Giametti, Hope Davis, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
It takes a special sort of grumpiness to address your wife and adopted infant daughter as "man", generally in the course of some shrill and ill-tempered complaint. That's the sort of guy you're dealing with in this movie: a neurotic, jazz-loving, existentially anxious serial divorcee, now involved with a nerdy, nervy woman with big hair and glasses: a sort of defiantly uncool Woody Allen. This sweetly sad, funny and deeply enjoyable movie is a based on the true life story of Harvey Pekar. He's a fat, balding everyman who worked a grindingly dull job all his life as a file clerk at the local hospital, but who achieved cult fame through his self-published autobiographical comic-book American Splendor, which relentlessly documents the ghastly realities of Pekar's day-to-day life.
Pekar is played by that undisputed king of American indie ordinariness: Paul Giamatti, whose terrible combover, slightly bulging eyes and thin resentful mouth make him the go-to guy for this kind of role.
Giamatti channels Pekar beautifully, portraying his many beefs and neuroses with sensitivity and humour, without straying into hamminess. Throughout, he maintains a graphic grimace, helping to recreate a comic-book feel. (Pekar once said of his work: "It's an autobiography written as it's happening.") And the way Giamatti captures those subtly glorious moments when Pekar cocks his head and smirks at the hilarity of his humdrum life, filing it in his writer's mind for later, is pure gold.
THURSDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2016
Doors: 7.30pm Film 8pm
Rotten Tomatoes - 94%
The Guardian - ★★★★
The Telegraph - ★★★★
Empire Magazine - ★★★★
The Times - ★★★★