is, in the literature of the job interview (which I must modestly admit I
created with my second book, Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being
Interviewed, in 1978) something called the “halo effect.”
The “halo effect” is the undue influence of an irrelevant trait
on your overall judgment. This
came into effect at the screening of American Splendor. There
was a woman sitting behind me who laughed at every line in the movie.
But it wasn’t the kind of guffaw you make when listening to Billy
Crystal or Richard Pryor or Robin Williams or someone who is actually funny.
It was the annoying kind of laugh of an ignoramus who is trying to
let everyone around him/her think that the laugher was in on something
inside. It was the kind of
laugh that takes the place of a statement like, “oh, isn’t that just
like him!” as if she had an intimate relationship with the person, causing
her to “laugh.” Try sitting
in a movie and have a character say, “pass the mustard, please” and have
someone laugh. Then the
character says, “What time is it?’ and the same person laughs.
Annoying? It’s much
worse than that.
I’m not only in the process of becoming an adult, but I know about the
“halo effect,” so it shouldn’t cloud my judgment of this movie.
When I’d hear her laugh every minute, I’d say to myself,
“don’t let this influence your judgment of this movie.”
it didn’t. American
Splendor is a grainy depiction of Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti), who
penned a comic book based on his life in the ‘70s.
It’s cleverly done in that actual interviews with the real Pekar
are interspersed throughout the film, so it’s part biography, part
this would be more enjoyable if you’ve ever heard of American Splendor
or Harvey Pekar. I hadn’t, so
I found myself wondering why Pekar was important enough to be the subject of
a feature film. Pekar is
pictured as a disgruntled, unhappy guy with an intellectual bent who worked
his entire life as a clerk at a Veteran’s Administration Hospital in
Cleveland. Despite this, the
reputation he built through American Splendor got him several appearances on
the David Letterman Show, and some other radio appearances, so he was a sort
of minor celebrity.
can’t say that the film is terrible.
It has its amusing moments. But
at 100 minutes it’s far too long. Giamatti
bears a remarkable resemblance to the real Pekar and he does a very good job
in the role. Despite this, I found it pretty uninvolving.
But the lady behind me laughed at every line.
Maybe she should have written this review because she obviously saw
something in the film that I didn’t.