Seymour Levov, going by the nickname of 'Swede' in the Jewish community he was born into, was even more of an all-American than Douglas Fairbanks himself. He had just everything an American idol can dream of: not only was the tall muscular young man a high school star athlete but he married a beauty queen named Dawn in the bargain. And as if all this were not enough, Swede later became the successful manager of the glove factory his father had founded, which allowed him to live with his wife in a beautiful house in the New Jersey countryside. Well-mannered, always bright, smiling and positive, conservative but with a liberal edge, what bad could ever happen to him? And yet...this was reckoning without fate and its obnoxious irony, Swede and Dawn's nemesis manifesting itself in the person of Merry, their beloved daughter who in her teens unexpectedly turned into a violent activist.Written by
When Swede and teen Merry talk in her bedroom, the LP cover at the front of a stack of records on the floor changes. See more »
[narrating as WWII era dance music plays]
Let's remember the energy. America had won the war. The depression was over. Sacrifice was over. The upsurge of life was contagious. We celebrated a moment of collective inebriation that we would never know again. Nothing like it in all the years that followed from our childhood until tonight, the 45th reunion of our high school class.
[now walking down a school hallway]
At 30 or 40, a gathering of my old classmates would have been exactly ...
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A psychological family drama? a missing person crime thriller? both?
"American Pastoral" (2016 release; 108 min.) brings the story of the Levov family. As the movie opens, we get to know Seymour "Swede" Levov, who seemingly wins at every thing, including when he returns after WWII the girl of his dreams, Dawn, a nice Catholic girl, Seymour's dad almost railroads the marriage, as they are Jewish, but Dawn manages to convince him otherwise. A few years later, Seymour and Dawn have a wonderful little girl named Merry. Only there is a problem: Merry stutters, for reasons unknown. When Merry reaches age 16, and the anti-Vietnam was movement in full swing, Merry turns against her family and disappears... What becomes of Merry? To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this movie is the directing debut of actor Ewan McGregor, who also plays the lead role of Swede. The movie is the big screen adaptation of the Philip Roth book of the same name. I have not read the book, so I can't comment how closely (or not) the movie follows the underlying book. I had seen the trailer of the movie several times, and thought it looked very promising and intriguing. As it turns out, McGregor seemingly couldn't make up his mind whether this was going to be a psychological family drama, or a missing person crime thriller, or both. In the end, it tries to be both but fails to be compelling, including resulting from several improbable plot twists. It certainly isn't because of the lack of acting talent. McGregor is okay, but Jennifer Connelly as his wife Dawn is outstanding (at some point she goes into a minutes-long monologue against Swede, with devastating effect. Daughter Merry is played by several actresses (as she grows up), but the bulk of the role is done by Dakota Fanning, who seems weirdly "off" for this role. Last but not least, there is another great orchestral score from Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat.
"American Pastoral" opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and the Saturday matinée screening where I saw this at was attended nicely. Maybe others were, like me, intrigued by the movie's trailer. I wonder of the word-of-mouth will be positive enough to keep this movie playing in theaters very long. Yet there are enough strong moments in it that I might suggest you check out "American Pastoral", be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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