An All-American college star and his beauty queen wife watch their seemingly perfect life fall apart as their daughter joins the turmoil of '60s America.An All-American college star and his beauty queen wife watch their seemingly perfect life fall apart as their daughter joins the turmoil of '60s America.An All-American college star and his beauty queen wife watch their seemingly perfect life fall apart as their daughter joins the turmoil of '60s America.
Philip Roth's superb book has passages of language that crystallizes our thinking, our memories, our association with life. In this cinematic transformation the words are placed in the utterances by Nathan Zuckerman, sort of an Everyman as he states in the opening of the film – '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 30 or 40, a gathering of my old classmates would have been exactly the kind of thing I'd have kept my nose out of. But at 62, I found myself drawn to it as if in the crowd of half-remembered faces I'd be closer to the mystery at the heart of things, a magic trick that turned time past into time present'. John Romano adapted Roth's novel American PASTORAL for the screen. Ethan McGregor directs. We all reflect on a time that somehow, though placed in the 1960's resistance against the Vietnam War, is terrifyingly familiar with the mood of the nation at present, again at resistance rallies – and that is the reason it works so well.
Seymour 'Swede' Levov (Ewan McGregor) was from the Jewish community and is an All- American sports star in high school. He had everything an American idol can dream of - a the tall muscular young man and high school star athlete but he married a Catholic beauty queen named Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) against his father's (Peter Riegert) advice. 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? The couple's stuttering daughter Merry (Hannah Nordberg then Dakota Fanning) is their pride and joy until she steps into the 1960s and becomes an antiwar activist, responsible for bombing a little station, killing the owner in what is a senseless and horrifying change in life direction. Merry leaves home and the rest of the film is a father's search for peace with his distraught wife and community while he ceaselessly searches for his renegade daughter.
A difficult film to watch, just as the book was challenging to read. But somehow the mirror it holds up to society as we are currently living it makes the disturbing experience all the more poignant.
- Feb 27, 2017