American Pastoral is a crime-drama about a one legendary high school athlete, Seymour Swede Levov (Ewan McGregor) who grew up to become a successful businessman and marry a former beauty queen, Dawn (Jennifer Connelly). When his daughter gets involved in politics and goes missing after being accused of committing a violent act Swede dedicates his life to reuniting his family. What he comes across makes him look beneath the surface as the world around him is engulfed in chaos.
Originally a novel by Philip Roth, Ewan McGregor brings it to the screen in his directorial debut. The good news is that the film sticks to the book quite well, the bad news is that it lacks clarity. It honestly felt like the film didn’t know what it wanted to be, was it about racism, activism, never giving up hope, mental illness? Yes, all of these presented in a scattered and uneven manner.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is enjoyable and I did leave thinking “That was a great film”, but after much thought I realised that the point of the film wasn’t made clear and although I found it enjoyable, it also confused me. There is one point in the film where you think “Oh great, this is a film about racism” when the main character stays behind with his employees (who are black) to protect the building, but it kind of just stops there. Sometimes it shows that what works well in books needs to be adapted for screens to give the flick more clarity. Cinematography was great, very effective. It managed to convey the emotion and themes in each scene really well. The soundtrack was lovely and fitted the film well.
Ewan Mcgregor was miscast in this film. I don’t feel that he did the character justice at all, now he is a great actor, I am just not sure he understood what the character was all about which definitely showed in his directing as well. If anything it felt overacted. Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Connelly gave fantastic performances that were not given enough screen time, particularly Jennifer Connelly who displayed a very good portrayal of a mentally ill woman. A lot of the supporting actors felt wasted as they didn’t add to the story that much, Uzo Aduba being one of them. I feel that she needed more screen time and to be involved in the story more for her character to be fully appreciated in context to the story.
In conclusion this is a film that had a lot of potential, but wasn’t pulled off correctly. Although parts of the film were fantastic they didn’t fit in with the rest of the film and a lot of the characters felt wasted. Ewan Mcgregor felt miscast and Jennifer Connelly needed much more screen time.