Movie Date: American Pastoral (NC16)
Far from perfect but very moving, particularly for parents.
STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Peter Riegert, Valorie Curry, Uzo Aduba
DIRECTOR: Ewan McGregor
THE SKINNY: Based on Philip Roth’s novel of the same name. Middle-class hero Seymour “Swede’’ Levov (McGregor) has it all: a great career, beautiful wife Dawn (Connelly) and beloved daughter Merry (Fanning). But when Merry becomes a radical political activist during the Vietnam War era, Swede sees his idyllic American dream fall apart.
MARS by JASON JOHNSON
When you're a parent, it's hard not to be a sucker for this sort of thing. At least it is for me.
I found McGregor's unconditional love for his radical daughter really moving. Watching a child slip into the darkness is obviously a father's worst nightmare.
American Pastoral does a brilliant job in making us feel our protagonist's love and hope, as well as his dread and horror.
In those few flashback scenes where we see his daughter as a child, we are made to understand how he could forgive her absolutely anything, even murder. It's a cliche but it's true: She'll always be his little girl.
It's a lot of emotion to convey, and American Pastoral manages it.
I don't think you can ask a film like this for much more than that.
American Pastoral's worst fault is probably its stiltedness, which is an affliction common to period dramas.
I suspect this happens because it takes a ton of work to get everything just right - the sets, the costumes, the overall vibe - and the director doesn't want to mess it all up by playing loosey-goosey.
Of course McGregor himself is the director here, and as it's his first time behind the camera, a certain tightness is to be expected.
All that said, the film isn't boring at all. The melodrama is juicy as heck, and there are a lot of weird little diversions, such as the bit where a wild little chick tries to seduce McGregor.
VENUS by Lisa Twang
Some children are born just to torture their parents.
That was my chilling takeaway from American Pastoral, a brutal reflection on the generation gap.
American Pastoral is a lot like 2011's We Need To Talk About Kevin. Both feature a pair of ordinary parents reeling from the realisation that their children might be murderers.
Teenage rebellion is one thing, but bombing the local store and killing someone in the process, as Merry does, is quite another.
American Pastoral has a rather messy plot line, and several extraneous characters that could be cut from the script without missing anything.
But it really tugs at the heartstrings; I found myself very emotional by the end of the film.
Just imagining what Swede goes through, searching for Merry for years following her act of terrorism, is heartbreaking.
McGregor is somewhat miscast as Swede. He lacks the raw magnetism and athletic physique of the book's character. Also, at no point do we believe he is Jewish.
I suppose when you're the director, you automatically cast yourself as the leading man. Still, there's no denying he is very good at conveying Swede's desperate love for Merry.
Fanning also adds weight to the film by depicting Merry's fall from grace - going from a mouthy teenager to literally, a toothless young woman - with great sensitivity.