Monday, 14 November 2016

American Pastoral Film Review

I came to American Pastoral as a novice. Not having read the book by Philip Roth, nor read anything about the movie, bar it was Ewan McGregors's directional debut.

So we have a high school reunion with the always excellent David Strathairn's Nathan coming home and reminiscing with Rupert Evans about his brother Seymour, the high school hero they all looked upto. The Swede (played by Ewan) as he was called due to his good looks has just died. He was the one that Nathan expected to have the perfect golden life. He dated Dawn the most beautiful girl in school who was also crowned Miss New Jersey. Dawn played by beautiful Jennifer Connelly has to win over the Swede's Jewish father, brilliantly played by Peter Riegert. She does and they marry and have their beautiful daughter Meredith. The one fly in their beautiful lives is that Merry has a stutter. Her psychiatrist suggests the stutter is a reaction to having the high school jock and a beauty queen as parents. Living their beautiful life on a little farm that Dawn runs, while the Swede runs his family glove making business in the city.

Coming back from a camping trip one day Merry flirts and asks her father to kiss her like he does their mother. I wasn't sure what his reaction would be. I didn't know where the movie was going at this point, but he reacts angrily thank god and it is forgotten.

Dakota Fanning as the 16 year old Merry becomes political and travels to New York to meet like-minded radicals in 1960's America. At the suggestion of her father that she can be political at home she guffaws at the idea of marching around the post office. But a bomb does go off at the post office killing the owner and she disappears.

Her parents are distraught at the thought that their child Merry with her ballet shoes and riding rosettes could have done this. But as race riots threaten the Newark community and family business, the golden life that Nathan had foreseen for the Swede unravels.

It seems that the film hasn't explored certain aspects of the Pulitzer winning novel it is based on, but what was dramatised I think worked as a stand alone story. Ewan McGregor's Seymour himself not understanding how his golden future became so tarnished.

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