We saw The Passion last night. I'm not gonna write a long review here, I think others have done that aplenty. Let's just leave it at this: I felt a bit like one of the people in the darkest jungles of Africa who are seeing the Jesus film for the first time.
Billy Graham said about The Exorcist that he believed an actual demon lived in the reels of that film. Well, friends, an angel lives in the reels of The Passion.
Sorry for the delay, folks . . . here's American Splendor
I have to confess that despite my extraordinarily hip exterior, I had never even heard of Harvey Pekar until I saw American Splendor. I had heard of R. Crumb, and he's in the movie, so that's close, right? Anyway, this film's design and flow are unlike anything I've ever seen before. There are simple surprises like(again, minor spoilers follow . . .) the real Harvey Pekar as the narrator, saying things like, "Well, here's the guy who's playing me" as Paul Giamatti walks down the street. Then, the film takes the real Harvey/fake Harvey juxtaposition further by having the two men share the screen. It's pretty bizarre in parts, but it always works. Here's why: Harvey Pekar was a master at taking his life and putting it on paper - at telling his story from outside himself. And so, this movie adds a layer, an extension if you will, to Pekar. He comes a man telling the story of how he tells his story - we're left with a three-tiered story structure that is completely unique - brilliant, even.
Of course, structure alone don't make a compelling film. Thankfully, that's not all this movie has to offer. Giamatti is typically great - I like him iin everything. Hope Davis is wonderful as Harvey's wife. And, one of the more fun performances I've seen in a while was put forward by Judah Friendlander, as Harvey's friend Toby Radloff (who you may remember from MTV in the eighties as a self-proclaimed nerd).
Harvey Pear is a jerk, a schmo. He's not an artist. But, one day he decided that comics were capable of so much more than spandex superhero costumes and Jughead Jones. He decided that the genre was ripe for expansion into the lingua franca - the language of the common man. So, he decided that since no one was more common than him, he would tell his own story. Sketched out in pencil, with stick figures, Harvey's stories were drawn by some of the predominant artists of the time, including R. Crumb, who helped get the whole thing started.
The story is fresh, the acting is terrific, and the direction is flawless. It's a really good movie.