You’d probably enjoy American Pastoral. That is, if you are willing to forget the award-winning novel it is based on.
Former school athlete star Seymour “Swede” Levov seemingly has the perfect life. After marrying his high school sweetheart, he takes over his family glovemaking business, manages it successfully, and has a daughter he names Meredith. The only flaw in his life is Meredith’s stuttering problem, an issue that the Swede is never able to completely come to terms with. As Meredith grows older, she becomes increasingly radicalised by anti-Vietnam War sentiments. One day, the local post office and gas station is bombed, an attack which kills the gas station owner. To the Swede’s horror, Meredith disappears thereafter. Leading all to suspect she is the culprit behind the bombing.
I thought viewers long accepted the fact that screen adaptations would never match-up to their written originals. Wasn’t the case for American Pastoral the film, it seems. Short of being branded a disaster, the movie has been labelled as “flat,” “strangled,” “elusive” and “mediocre.” On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently languishes at 20 per cent freshness. This is worse performing than mindless action flicks like London has Fallen and Skiptrace. This movie is going to make its way into all sorts of “top-10” terrible … … lists.
Terribly unfortunate. But yes, stripped of Nate Zuckerman’s blighting narrative, the story is reduced to no more than mawkish family melodrama. One set in an era that even Non-Americans are no longer fascinated by. Yet this doesn’t mean American Pastoral is wholly dreary or unwatchable. While director / lead Obiwan Kenobi, I mean Ewan McGregor, might be miscast, the rest of the team throws in reasonably spirited performances. Particularly Valorie Curry, who quite aptly executed a seduction scene that could have so easily slipped into being absurd. The problem here, in my opinion, is really a matter of expectations. How do you capture the essence of a masterpiece that is in reality a highly personalised, scathing critique? How do you make those opinions watchable and engrossing at the same time?
I don’t think it’s possible. I suspect many top directors would agree. Dear Sir Kenobi’s mistake, was to attempt such a monumental feat for his directorial debut.
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