The kid does a spot-on Paul Giamatti and Paul Giamatti does a spot-on Harvey Pekar. Or perhaps, if the kid’s even better than I give him credit for, he does a spot-on Paul Giamatti-as-Harvey Pekar.
Unusual movie about an unusual man. Paul Giamatti gives another sterling performance as our decidedly unheroic hero Harvey Pekar, perhaps improved by regular glimpses of the real Pekar as a point of comparison; in fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role (other than Pekar himself!). The writer/director team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini play with the form in some really interesting ways, forcing the audience to ponder how much of what we’re seeing is real and how much is just another layer of fiction. The more innovative sequences, and the sequences that use art from Pekar’s comic books, mostly succeed and blend in well with the rest of the movie. The story as a whole doesn’t have quite as much drama as I would have liked, but to be fair, it’s all based on fact, and I wouldn’t want them to have manufactured drama that didn’t really happen. By the end, as much as I enjoyed the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would have worked better as a straight documentary, given that the use of real-life people and archival footage somewhat undercuts the sense that we’re watching a work of fiction. Or maybe that’s a moot point and I should just appreciate that it offers a new (though largely unreplicatable) way of telling a true story? I also have a confession to make about Judah Friedlander’s scene-stealing performance as Toby Radloff: I saw his name in the opening credits, completely failed to recognise him throughout the movie, and then had a sheepish ‘ohhh yeah!’ moment when I saw his name again (listed with the character name) in the end credits.