Originally posted on 9.10.16: “Last night I caught Ewan MacGregor‘s American Pastoral (Lionsgate, 10.21), a handsome, concise adaptation of Philip Roth’s 1997 family-tragedy novel, and came away relatively pleased, or at least placated.
“To me it felt straight and unfettered and emotionally upfront, but at the same time not overbearing. And with the exception of Dakota Fanning‘s occasionally whispery, hard-to-understand dialogue the performances (MacGregor in the lead role of Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov plus Jennifer Connelly, Rupert Evans, Valorie Curry and Peter Reigert) struck me as specific, rounded and believable.”
Ewan MacGregor‘s directorial debut begins high-def streaming on Tuesday, 2.7. Bluray and DVD concurrent, of course.
“I should admit to a certain familiarity with the project as Pastoral was developed for many years by director Phillip Noyce (director of Salt, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Clear and Present Danger), whom I’m friendly with, along with screenwriter John Romano. I was surprised when Noyce bailed on the project after so many years of investment, but I have to admit that MacGregor, a first-timer, has done a better-than-decent job at bringing this sad tale to life. To me the film feels clean, well honed, reasonably arresting.
“An episodic, middle-class tragedy, Pastoral focuses on the anguish and confusion felt by a New Jersey businessman (MacGregor) when his daughter (Fanning) becomes a violent, bomb-detonating Weatherman in the late ’60s. Romano’s eloquent screenplay is the most stirring aspect, I suppose, although I was also taken with with the handsome cinematography by Martin Ruhe (Control, Harry Brown). Pastoral pulses with what struck me as a kind of natural, unforced authenticity, and I’m saying this as a former New Jersey guy who once knew the lay of the land.
“I was especially struck by a very brief lower Manhattan image that shows the World Trade Center towers as they appeared in ’71 or thereabouts, unfinished with the brown steel beams still exposed.”