American Splendor

Bomb Rating: 

The circus has a freak show for a reason.

This is a movie about a guy named Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) who could potentially be the most miserable, self-loathing guy on the planet. Pekar's main attribute as a human being is a perpetual scowl that defines his existence. He's spent his entire life as a file clerk, eventually turning his mundane daily rituals into a famous underground comic book upon which the title is based.

The film is part dramatization, part documentary, since we get to meet the real Pekar, his real wife (her name is Joyce, played in the film by Hope Davis) and the real Toby Radloff (Judah Friedlander), who's one of Pekar's co-workers. From what I can tell, directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini did this in order to prove that these people actually exist. Particularly in the case of Toby, you have to see the real guy to believe that the actor playing him isn't on some kind of drug.

The circus has a freak show for a reason, which is to give people like me the opportunity to spend a few hours repeating the mantra: Thank God I don't have a third nipple, Thank God I don't have a third nipple (or whatever affliction I discover I'm elated not to have). Following Pekar around and learning about the depressing state of his life isn't exactly what I'd call inspiring.

Of course, I know what you're thinking: Here's a grouchy guy who's not happy with anything. How could Mr. Cranky not love him? How could Mr. Cranky not run from the theater screaming to the world, "I have finally seen MY kind of movie!" How could Mr. Cranky not start masturbating like a horny jack rabbit at the mere notion of such a film, much less an actual viewing of it?

Get real.

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