American Splendor


Universal acclaim - based on 42 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 41 out of 42
  2. Negative: 0 out of 42

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Critic Reviews

  1. It's a humane and witty treatment of an average life that, incidentally, speaks to the worth and inherent drama of average lives.
  2. Reviewed by: 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.
  3. Pirandello didn't have a patch on its complexities. Here's a popular entertainment with an eclectic soundtrack raising penetrating questions of identity in astonishing sequences that interweave live action with comic-book art.
  4. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Produced by HBO but too good not to play theaters, this soon-to-be minor classic is the best movie about society's untrendiest since "Ghost World" exactly two years ago.
  5. 100
    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.
  6. 100
    Superbly conceived anti-biopic.
  7. Filmed and acted to near perfection, it's one of the year's most innovative and exciting pictures.
  8. 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.
  9. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    One of the funniest, smartest, most moving pictures of the year.
  10. 91
    Thoroughly unique work of art.
  11. In the world of comic-book movies, American Splendor is the real deal, the warts-and-all adventures of the most unlikely hero on the comic stands.
  12. The genius of the film is its utter commitment to the Pekar point of view.
  13. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Sad, tender, wise and beautiful film... It's a profound tribute to lives lived on the fringes of society -- to the introspective loners who are the most observant chroniclers of our times.
  14. 90
    One of the most wildly original, dryly comical, and smartly structured films ever created.
  15. 90
    A narrative picture with many of the qualities of a documentary, not to mention a comic book -- is one of those rare, inventively made movies that isn't so taken with its own novelty it loses sight of its characters. Its warmth is for real, and it enwraps you.
  16. 90
    Clever, engaging, and cannily faux populist.
  17. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    A painfully funny movie. There’s nothing in the history of movie courtship quite like the first meeting between Pekar and his future wife and fellow depressive, Joyce Brabner.
  18. It would be a mistake to regard American Splendor as an anthem for the common man. It is the UNCOMMON that is being celebrated here.
  19. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    That is the quiet triumph of American Splendor: 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. [18 & 25 August 2003, p. 150]
  20. 90
    It’s our great good fortune, and Pekar's, that this movie -- which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, followed by the FIPRESCI Award at Cannes -- is as true to the dyspeptic spirit of its source as anyone could have imagined.
  21. A gentle, frank, and often hysterical love story about two people destined, and occasionally doomed, to be together forever. Some of us should be as lucky, as blessed, as Harvey Pekar.
  22. Reviewed by: Mark Sells
    Though it has many moments of sarcasm and humor, the overall tone, like the comics themselves, is a depressing one.
  23. 89
    Remarkably fresh and exciting.
  24. 88
    One genuine small triumph of American Splendor is that the title isn't ironic. The movie is a splendid, inventive piece of urban Americana about that hardboiled original, Harvey Pekar.
  25. 88
    Davis, a hugely underrated actress..., is deadpan perfection as Joyce, wearing oversized glasses and a wig that makes her look like an older version of Thora Birch's character in "Ghost World."
  26. The best American movie so far this year.
  27. 88
    Such a stylistic inconsistency might be bothersome in another film, but here it's just part of the texture.
  28. 88
    American Splendor reminds you that sometimes, simply getting out of bed each morning can be the most heroic of acts.
  29. 88
    Not your typical biopic. But it is one of the best times you'll have at the movies this year.
  30. As inventive as "Being John Malkovich," as psychologically quirky as "Ghost World" and as honest as the day is long.
  31. 88
    American Splendor is deserving of accolades, not only because it tells an interesting story about a fascinating man, but because it does so with such freedom and freshness. I wish more of the comic book-inspired movies were like this.
  32. The film has the dog-eared look of a homemade valentine and the improvised sound of '60s jazz, courtesy of a score by Mark Suozzo and a spirited soundtrack including Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar," which might be the film's anthem.
  33. A feature film as odd, personal and sometimes mundane as his (Pekar) comics.
  34. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The film isn't in the same key as Pekar's comic: The tempo is buoyant, puckish, and even more "meta" than the original.
  35. Biographies of living people are tricky if for no other reason than a biographer can sometimes feel protective of his or her subject. Berman and Pulcini obviously adore Pekar, but by not getting out of his head more often and taking him on his own harsh terms, they blow the chance to dig as deep as the source.
  36. 80
    With a lovably cantankerous sense of humor and an honest strain of hard realism and pathos, the film thrives on the tension that comes from an artist who devotes himself to the truth, but watches his image get away from him.
  37. 80
    There's as much at stake in the hilarious, moody and cantankerous film adaptation of "Splendor" as there was in this summer's other movies of comic-book antiheroes like "The Hulk" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
  38. I can't say that this feature by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, about the life and art of Harvey Pekar, made me want to run out and buy his comic books, but it does offer a highly interesting and original introduction to them.
  39. 80
    It's an hilarious, touching reminder that, sometimes, ordinary folk have the world's most interesting lives.
  40. 70
    A kind of bipolar movie, not exactly haha funny but true to life.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 89 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 34
  2. Negative: 6 out of 34
  1. Sep 27, 2015
    American Splendor is quite the postmodern film. It's an interesting take on life from the POV of a normal eccentric man. The film itself isAmerican Splendor is quite the postmodern film. It's an interesting take on life from the POV of a normal eccentric man. The film itself is normal eccentric, neither straightforward nor weird. Those who enjoy aspects of postmodernism such as messiness and infinite regress will likely enjoy American Splendor. And, of course, Paul Giamatti is great in it. Full Review »
  2. Oct 12, 2010
    Large credit for the appeal of this film is the visionary direction interweaving comic drawings into the film and the masterful performance ofLarge credit for the appeal of this film is the visionary direction interweaving comic drawings into the film and the masterful performance of Paul Giamatti. Deservedly received awards from independent film festivals such as Sundance. Full Review »
  3. ChristopherJ.
    Mar 20, 2007
    I was excited about watching it, but then I didn't like it that much. It seemed to me like to much unjustified bitterness, if I remember I was excited about watching it, but then I didn't like it that much. It seemed to me like to much unjustified bitterness, if I remember correctly. I tried to watch it again, but I fell asleep. Full Review »