American Pastoral (R)

Based on Philip Roth’s novel which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, American Pastoral tells the story of the life of Seymour Levov.  Ewan McGregor directs and stars in this piece along with Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Connelly.

So…, Seymour Levov lived what many looking in from the outside would consider “a charmed life.” Superstar high school athlete, married his childhood sweetheart who was a beauty queen, ran a successful business that his father started, lived on a scenic farm in New Jersey, had a lovely daughter, etc.  American Pastoral focuses on the problems this guy had within his family; specifically with his daughter Merry, who was a problem child early on, and her problems become larger and more unmanageable, until they consume this entire family.

First, the good…

The acting was solid. Peter Reigert as Lou Levov, Seymour’s father, is a delight in this movie.  He stole every scene he appeared in.  The main characters seem to live in this sort of fairytale existence, and Lou is always there, keeping everyone grounded and speaking his truth.  Uza Aduba does a good job in her role as another “truth teller.”

The depiction of this family falling apart was done well. When tragedy strikes, different people react to it in different ways, with no one way being right or wrong.  Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connolly poured some real feeling into these two characters ,who were so blissfully happy and had their world rocked by this kid.

The interesting thing about this story is it showed this father fighting desperately and failing to connect with his child and help her through her many, deep problems. Like parents sometimes do, Seymour tries to “love” his daughter’s problems away.  He does the best he can with what he knows, at the time and it is sad to watch.

And these are the points that made the story worth sticking with.

And now the bad…

Oh, so bad…

With the exception of “the good” mentioned above, I just didn’t care for this story.  At all.  All the things done right and all the “good” in this story went to waste because the story was lousy.  I have no way of knowing how closely the movie mirrors the book as I have not read the book, but watching this movie gave me absolutely no desire to rehash this story in any way, shape, form or fashion ever again.  I can say with confidence that this is a movie I will never watch again.  Solid acting aside, I’m very nearly sorry I watched the first time.  At least the guy across the aisle from me got a good 30 minute nap in during the time the movie was running.  That was a much more productive use of his time.  The second half of this movie was downright ridiculous and got boring as it attempted to be “edgy.”  And the ending made one thought pop into my head; the dreaded, “That is two hours of my life I will never get back.”  Two hours and six minutes to be exact.

Merry was such a brat, I found it hard to feel sorry for her after a while. She really was a terrible child who was so disrespectful to her parents, her mother in particular, you will wish for either one of them to wake the hell up and give her a good stiff pop in the mouth during one of her mean spirited, profanity-laced outbursts.  And Seymour was just stupid, doing very stupid, dangerous things, just like his daughter, at times.

This story seems as though it tries to be a story about something that could happen in real life, but some of the things that happen are so unrealistic the story telling is ruined. There is one huge question left unanswered that make absolutely no sense and makes the second half of the story even unbelievable than it already is.

Anyway, American Pastoral earned 4 bloops out of 10. Sometimes bad movies happen to good acting.  It is not a good movie in my opinion because the second half of the story was just so very painfully implausible.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone watch it.  Not even for free.    Unless you have read the book and are curious.  Good luck with that.

American Pastoral debuts Friday, October 21st.

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