Following its release last Friday, October 21, “American Pastoral” screened for an audience at the Savannah Film Festival Monday night, October 24.
The film, based on Philip Roth’s 1997 novel of the same name, provided a portrait of the decline of Seymour “Swede” Levov and the disruption of his idyllic American life, following the disappearance of his daughter. Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, and Dakota Fanning play the seemingly happy family; each actor gives a strong performance, however, stunted by self-conscious dialogue and scenes that linger slightly too long.
The plot unfolds with Swede’s younger brother telling the tale to a writer friend at their high school reunion. In addition to adding clunky narration, this introduction provides an unnecessary lens for the audience to experience the story, distancing viewers and eliminating much of the movie’s potential for intrigue or tension.
Conflicted between the thrilling, fast-paced narrative following Swede’s plunge into the radical side of the 1960s counter-culture to search for his daughter and the emotional side of the story in which Swede and Dawn attempt to move on with their lives in their daughter’s absence, “American Pastoral” lacks intention and purpose. Though both sides are integral to the story, they are not interwoven and therefore both fall short of real meaning.
The early stages of the Levov family’s story, combined with the actors’ performances and keen, intentional cinematography, showed promise. The development foreshadowed interesting character traits and motivations that were never explored and the promise of these elements made the film’s inconclusive ending even more anti-climactic.
“American Pastoral” appears to be a mediocre story with excellent execution. The delivery was detailed and thorough, strung together with a beautiful score by Kevin MacLeod, but lacked some essential innovation to compel audiences.