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The wonders of ordinary days

   In "American Wonder," Harvey Pecal and Joyce Brabner's first date is romantic, sizzling like quesadillas on a hot pan.

  He's a depressed, stocky archivist in Cleveland who's working on a comic book series based on his difficult life experiences. And she, a jittery eccentric woman from Wilmington, Delaware, self-diagnosed with depression. The first time they meet at the bus stop, Harvey (Paul Gamatti) declares that he can tell her straight: He's had a vasectomy. But Joyce replied: Her family has regenerative diseases of one kind or another.

  They are a natural couple. Joyce hurried into Harvey's bathroom after a very particular but unappetizing lunch. When she reappeared, she suggested that the two of them just cut to the chase and get married.

  This unconventional biopic of a superhero character portrays Harvey Pecal in person, but highlights his relationship with Joyce. His autobiographical comic strip "American Wonder" and his illustrated novel "The Year We Got Cancer" have become classics. Both in the film and in real life, Harvey and Joyce, despite the fuss, torment, and hopelessness, are normal people in love.

  Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pursini have brought together a witty and stunning collection of documentary footage, comic strips and straight-to-the-point drama, framing Harvey and the Joyce's unique personality that sets her apart. In the film, Jamatti's Harvey, often seen as a cartoon character, jumps from one comic strip to another. His thoughts are also occasionally sketched with speeches from characters circled in cartoons.

  The film "American Wonders" won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival in the United States and is highly entertaining. It was Gamatti's breakthrough on-screen role as Pekar, both charming and aware of the gritty harsh reality he faced. He was pale and listless, with shaggy hair, rolling his eyes, and speaking witty words. Joyce Brabner, played by Hope Davis, is unforgettable, with a quiet, determined face beneath her thick Elvira-esque black hair. James Urbaniak giggles like a donkey as Robert Crum, the famous comic strip artist who painted Harvey's comic strips and made them successful.

  The success of "American Wonder" is that it doesn't take viewers away from real life for a single moment. And this is what Pekar's comic strips strive to do. In the words of Giammati and Pekar: "Ordinary daily life is so complicated and strange.

  " American Wonder created a "spectacle" that culminated in the frenzy of independent films. Like many Hollywood films released on a seasonal basis, American Wonder, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, is also based on a comic strip.

  It's the best-performing and most resonant film since the indie "Ghost World" looked at a living underdog a few years ago.

  Real-life miser, record collector and VA hospital clerk, Harvey Pecal, chronicled his endlessly worrying life in the 1976 comic strip American Wonder. This comic strip series is written by R. Kram's accompanying paintings made Pecal a cult idol as soon as it came out.

  Documentary directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulsini take a different, inspiring approach to this biopic in their feature film debut.

  Not only did they hire Paul Gamatti to play Pecal, but the real Harvey Pecal was the narrator of the narration. In addition, they lead to the cartoon version of Pekar from the comic strip drawn by Kram. There is also a fourth version of Pekar, played by Donal Logue in a segment of the stage play based on the comic strip American Wonder.

  At the heart of the story is Pecal and Joyce's less sentimental but still touching love romance. Delaware comic book store owner Joyce is the lover of twice-divorced Harvey. She comes to visit Harvey and wants a newly published comic strip. He invites her to his Cleveland home, and the two hit it off, obviously a natural match.

  Later, when Joyce was bedridden with chronic fatigue syndrome, Harvey was also cynical about his cancer diagnosis. Their love is put to the test. These things are vividly described in their co-authored novel, The Year We Had Cancer. And, during an illness when they could barely take care of themselves, the Pecals also claimed an outcast.

  While Hope Davis is a consistently underrated actress, she plays Joyce to perfection in this film with a pair of black-rimmed glasses and a wig.

  "American Wonder" was one of the best films of 2003. (The New York Post, August 15, 2003)

  Gamatti finally gets a chance at the lead role. In the film, he landed what could be called a milestone in his film career—playing the grumpy popular comic book series author Harvey Pecal. The film's other star, Hope Davis, plays Joyce, Pekar's wife. The film is a mix of live action, animation and documentary.

  In recent years, Jammarty has specialized in roles that are likable but nobody likes. He plays the dork, the underdog of life, the sarcastic man, but he's in no rush to expand his acting realm.

  "That's the role I got. But at the same time, I was hooked on some of the smaller roles that were more interesting, and the performance didn't fail," Jammarty said.

  In "Saving Private Ryan," he played a goofy general; in "Man in the Moon," he played Jim Cary's character's sidekick.

  In "American Wonders", the protagonist Harvey Pekar's comic strip summarizes some of the frustrations and downfalls encountered in contemporary life. Gamatti found in Pekar an image of a working-class protagonist unconventional. Pecal is an ordinary Cleveland man, but also a genius.

  Gamatti, 36, is as hilarious and chatty as the man he plays. He lives with his wife and two-and-a-half-year-old son in an apartment in South Manhattan. He bought thousands of villain books for his son. "I buy him a copy a day at least," said Jamatti, who

  grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, Bart, was a professor at Yale University and then president. Jammarty studied first at Choate and later at the Yale School of Drama. In 1989, Bart served as executive leader of the Major League Baseball for five months. There were two memorable events in his tenure: first, he deprived Pete Rose of his lifelong right to race; second, he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 51. Gamatti was often asked about Rose, which left him overwhelmed and embarrassed. "I don't know what to say, it's my father's business and not mine," he said. "What we do know is that he was dead when it

  happened ." Pecal such an intellectual. So, he performed very well.

  "But, God, at first," said the real Pekar, "Gamatti's performance was so frustrating for me. No problem, you can think there are murderers out there, and I'm not too bad."

  Of course, In "American Wonder," Gamatti turns Pekar into an American hero.


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