Paul Giamatti, a character actor who’s embodied a host of losers and creeps, always merited a lead role, and was surely born to play Harvey Pekar, the grumpy but ultimately likeable (not lovable) hospital clerk who finds a means of expression through his comic books/graphic novels. Inspired by friend Robert Crumb (and this is a superior film to the 1994 documentary Crumb), our obsessive-compulsive antihero depicts and ponders the mundane and everyday through his work, and the world and his wife relate. Celebrity, which isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, ensues.
Splicing acted sequences with cartoons and real footage of Pekar and his motley entourage, this unconventional biopic, bristling with indignant intelligence, even tackles Pekar’s later illness head on, as his misanthropy (slightly) mellows. Hope Davis is pitch-perfect as Pekar’s scatty but forceful wife, and the film brilliantly blends cynical humour with justified pathos. Splendid.