American Pastoral – A Review By Nick Askam

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This movie is about Nathan Zuckerman (David Strathairn) going back to a class reunion to connect with old classmates. He’s a bitter, old writer who’s trying to connect with his human side. He meets a Levov brother (I forgot his name) to talk about the Swede (Ewan McGregor). The Swede was an amazing athlete who was destined for greatness. Levov informs Zuckerman that the Swede has passed away and he shares his story with him.

The Swede married Dawn, a beauty queen, and they had a daughter, Merry. They lived an average live, but Merry had a stutter and started to act a little strangely as kid. Eventually she mulls the decision to fight for human rights and the Swede reacts.

This movie is based off of a book that I have not read. I have no intention to read it and probably never will.

This whole film revolves around the original narrative of Zuckerman going back to school to catch up with people and it’s pointless. It slows down the film and forces the audience to care about someone we have no connection with. It’s lackadaisical and boring. The pacing of these scenes is atrocious. If they wanted to make someone fall asleep in the first 10 minutes, they achieved that.

Ewan McGregor is great in this movie. He plays a caring, loving man who just wants the best for his family. He delivers the best performance in the film. I felt compassionate for him and wanted him to succeed even when he made bad decisions over and over again. There was something mesmerizing about him. I knew his decisions were terrible, but I kept hoping that somehow things would work out for him. The way that he formed relationships with people was great. I felt that he had known these people for years and he had deep bonds with certain characters especially his father, Lou (Peter Riegert). The father is more of the comic relief and I think he’s good balance between McGregor.

The other performances in the film were unfortunately not as strong. Dakota Fanning did all right, but Ocean James and her had different stutters. I just felt like they were two different characters. I especially didn’t care for Ocean’s performance. It’s definitely a hardest role in the film. Jennifer Connelly, on the other hand, is bad. I just never felt connected to her. She felt unconnected and just full of dismay. There’s a point in the film when something bad happens to her and I laughed. The therapist (Molly Parker) was fine. She was fine and I was hoping that she’d get more screen time. I thought her ideas of what was happening was an interesting parallel to what was going on.

My biggest complaint was the shot composition and transitions. There wasn’t one shot that I said “hmm… that’s interesting”. The film was almost filmed like a play. It was just flat out boring to watch. The shots made the film feel like it was 3 hours long. The transitions are also dreadful. There were a few scenes that abruptly stopped or faded out for no reason. It destroyed the pacing and I think was a huge detriment to the whole film.

Overall, this is movie that needs a little work. I think aside from Ewan; this film is largely forgettable. Although, the ending was so great. I just don’t know if it was worth the watching the rest of the film. I definitely won’t remember it in a few weeks and I’m having trouble remembering what happened after just a week.

 

Grade: C-

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