The final act of any career is what the artist makes of it. Some will cash their cheques and coast along with passion projects like Paul McCartney or the sale of their back catalogue like Bob Dylan. Others will continue to chisel out their filmography with drab hands and easy cash like Bruce Willis. Some will cater to their passions; others will take the backhander and very few will finesse it so well that they can do both. Jack Nicholson feels like a man that could do both, and he did that with the final few films of his career. About Schmidt was his last gasp at Academy Awards success, and although he fell just short, it doesn’t matter all that much.
We are sometimes told we are all heroes. Everyone has what it takes to perform some Superman-like task. Not just in film, where protagonists redeem their dark and murky past with a senseless, emotional act of goodwill, but in the real world too. American Splendor and the directing duo behind it, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, do not believe that to be true. Nobody is a hero. The underground comic writer Harvey Pekar is brought to life with the sensibilities and cult following he was nurtured by throughout his career. His best-known work, a comic book autobiography by the title American Splendor, is adapted to the screen with an interesting spin on the biopic formula. How does a down and out comic book fan who brushed shoulders with Robert Crumb prepare himself for the underground, big league success and the mythology around it?