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Movie Review: AMERICAN PASTORAL

Not as solid as it should be

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Ewan McGregor’s feature directorial debut, AMERICAN PASTORAL, is a decent effort at best, but at the end of the day, this feels more fitting as television series on HBO rather than a movie. This is a film that has enough shocker in its dialogue to create further conversations but you can’t help feeling that so many things were left out that should’ve been kept instead.

Based on Philip Roth’s novel, scripted by John Romano, the story is set in 1968 where Ewan McGregor’s character, a hardworking man named Seymour, witnesses his middle class life fall apart as the community is stricken by racial tension and his daughter, Merry (Dakota Fanning) gets influenced by radical political views that threatens to destroy their family. For a book that was published in the ‘90s and a story that’s set in the ‘60s, Philip Roth’s AMERICAN PASTORAL sure resonates with today’s societal and political climate, especially the anger and the hatred that young people have towards certain politicians, I’m not saying their anger isn’t justified, but just like the case of Merry, you wonder if they’re just being fed information by certain groups and the media or if they’ve really truly done their homework. And then there’s the racial tension that’s clearly still going on today. Which goes to show that unfortunately, history does repeat itself.

But that’s the problem with this film, the story makes you want to read the book because the film leaves a lot to be desired. I commend the performances of all the actors across the board, Jennifer Connelly as the disturbed wife, Dakota Fanning as the radicalized daughter, this is by far Fanning’s best performance yet, and I also admire the production design and the costume, and of course, any movie that has a score composed by Alexandre Desplat, is a movie worth sitting through,.. but I just feel like that so much of the meat and bone of the story gets relegated to just descriptions. AMERICAN PASTORAL does however have a Basic Instinct-esque scene involving the very daring young talent, Valorie Curry, a scene that will definitely keep you wide awake and alert, but for the most part, you can sense that a lot gets lost in the adaptation. I understand that the filmmakers want to focus on the father-daughter aspect, which is completely fine in my book, but even that aspect could’ve been more complex, more layered, but the film just isn’t able to go there.

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