American Pastoral

Genre:  Drama | Running Time:  108 min.
Release Date: October 21, 2016 – Toronto, Vancouver
DVD/BluRay: February 7, 2017

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.

Production

A Lionsgate, Lakeshore Entertainment presentation and production. Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Andre Lamal. Executive producers: Eric Reid, Terry A. McKay.

Crew

Director: Ewan McGregor. Screenplay: John Romano, based on the novel by Philip Roth. Camera (color): Martin Ruhe. Editor: Melissa Kent.

With

Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Valorie Curry, Uzo Aduba, Rupert Evans, Hannah Nordberg, Peter Riegert, Molly Parker, David Strathairn.

American Pastoral Movie Plot:

At the 45th-year reunion of the graduating class of Weequahic High School in Newark, New Jersey; author Nathan Zuckerman meets one of his old friends, Jerry Levov. They talk about Jerry’s brother, former star athlete Seymour “Swede” Levov, who recently died after a long illness.

In a flashback, Swede persuades his father, glovemaking magnate Lou Levov, to let him marry his high school sweetheart, beauty queen Dawn Dwyer. Lou is skeptical because Dawn is a devout Roman Catholic, but gives in. They have a daughter, Meredith, or “Merry”, and settle in the town of Old Rimrock, where they acquire a large farm.

For much of her life, Merry struggles with a stuttering problem, but her parents are unable to get a handle on it. By the time Merry reaches high school, she has become increasingly radicalized as the Vietnam War rages, and frequently goes to New York City to take part in antiwar protests. Fearing for her safety, Swede urges Merry to channel her energy into protesting against the war at home.

A few days later, the local post office and gas station are blown up by a massive bomb, killing the gas station’s owner. Merry disappears soon afterward, and is the prime suspect in the bombing. She isn’t heard from again until Rita Cohen, a student at the Wharton School, comes ostensibly to do a study on the glovemaking industry, and tips off Swede that she knows about Merry’s whereabouts. Swede meets Rita in a hotel, but spurns Rita’s attempts to seduce him. The strain of Merry’s disappearance briefly sends Dawn into a mental hospital. She gets a facelift soon afterward, and tries to get Swede to forget about Merry.

Years later, when leaving a gallery crawl, Swede spots Rita on the street. Rita takes him to a skid-row area of Newark where Merry now lives. Here, Swede asks and Merry confesses to having made and planted 3 bombs, killing 4 people. She also tells of how after escaping capture, she moved into the underground, when she was raped repeatedly. Merry wants to withdraw from society, as a penance for her crimes. She becomes a Jain and vows a life of non-violence.

American Pastoral (2016)

American Pastoral Review:

American Pastoral a fine flashback look at the 60s and how the events of the day affected one upper middle class family. The father is Ewan MacGregor the star athlete who married teen beauty queen Jennifer Connelly and looked like they were heading for the golden future. They’re from Newark and MacGregor now manages the family business which is a leather goods factory in Newark. But they move out to the suburbs of Morris County.

First off it’s a mixed marriage with Jewish MacGregory marrying a Shiksa in Connelly. They have one child a daughter Dakota Fanning who growing up in the 60s sees what’s going on around her and gets into some truly radical politics. Her parents are traditional liberal Democrats.

Something she does makes her a fugitive. The rest of the film is MacGregor and Connelly’s agonized family traditions are blown apart. They want to understand their child and want her back. But that can never be.

This film is adapted from a Philip Roth novel and Roth drew his characters well as this was an era he and I both grew up in.

Besides the main characters I would single out Peter Riegert’s performance as MacGregor’s father and Valerie Curry who has embraced totally Weatherman style radicalism. Her scenes with MacGregor who is trying to find his fugitive daughter just crackle with intensity.

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