American Pastoral

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
American Pastoral

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Ewan McGregor aims high with his directorial debut – but doesn't dig deep enough

‘That’s how we know we’re alive – we’re wrong,’ a character observes in Philip Roth’s 1997 Pulitzer-winning novel ‘American Pastoral’. Based on that piece of insight, actor-turned-director Ewan McGregor’s movie version is very much alive: it’s a remarkably committed effort that takes a few seriously misguided turns along the way.

What makes ‘American Pastoral’ fall short is that the film settles for only half the novel’s impact – the part about successful Jewish businessman Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov (McGregor) having a midlife meltdown. He escapes 1950s expectations, marries a New Jersey beauty queen (Jennifer Connelly) and creates a life of middle-class bliss, just as the counterculture and his rebellious teenage daughter, Merry (Dakota Fanning, the best thing about the film), screw it all up.

The movie plays like a compelling late-season episode of ‘Mad Men’, riffing on generation-gap tensions. But there’s something deeper in the book that McGregor and TV-vet screenwriter John Romano miss. The film somehow remembers to digitally create an in-construction Twin Towers in the background of a night drive, but it doesn’t get at the cosmic ruination of Roth’s critique of faith, nor the character traits that make Swede so emblematic of a certain era of American Jewish success.


Release details

Release date:
Friday November 11 2016
108 mins

Cast and crew

Ewan McGregor
Ewan McGregor
Dakota Fanning
Jennifer Connelly
You may also like