American Pastoral Review
Director: Ewan McGregor.
Score: Alexandre Desplat.
This film has been long on the shelf, with the script being completed back in 2006 with Jennifer Connelly being the only cast member from the original line-up. Ewan McGregor making his directorial debut and also taking the lead role, which is quite a feat but also a usual habit of actors-come-directors on their time in the chair.
Novel based, Philip Roth's American Pastoral won the Pulitzer Prize for the 1997 published story. Being an incredible work of fiction, it could easily be mistaken as a biography. Having a few of his books adapted for screen, this is one of two this year alone, Indignation being the other.
There's an interesting narrative with David Strathairn setting up the story by reluctantly attending a school reunion and hears what comes of high-school superstar The Swede, played by McGregor. How he marries school sweetheart and beauty princess, Dawn (Connelly) becoming the prefect couple as everyone had expected.
However, things rarely go precisely to plan or as expected, when their daughter grows up quite angry with the world, especially with the American government and the policies and wars it carries out. It's quite possibly any parent's greatest trouble, losing their own child to ideals not of their own, setting them very much apart.
Actually feeling rather topical for the current American climate, whilst being strongly political it does truly focus more on the personal level, watching how a once-perfect father torment himself in the wake of his own daughters self- destruction and activism.
The performances are superbly portrayed, especially McGregor's emotional outbursts and acts of defiance, he's certainly the star here among a strong cast. I don't think there was enough Dakota Fanning, or it leaps years failing to give the same investment I had for McGregor. But sure the story is pivotal to McGregor and not Fanning. Valorie Curry is someone to certainly watch out for. I found her part outstanding.
McGregor's direction is nothing short of stunning, showing off his knowledge of behind-the-camera work, but I think he tried too hard to impress, cramming so many styles in there, even the unpopular shaky-cam in there. It's as if he's attempted to take his favourite methods from directors he has worked with, though it's a stand alone piece and cannot think of anything similar. It's still very well done and very artistic.
There's an almost non-existent score from Alexandre Desplat, but listening to it in isolation, it's a very good score with hints of patriotism, sombre, thoughtful anthems and keywords that reminded me of Thomas Newman's work. Unfortunately, I just didn't really notice it in the film, but that's not to say it didn't help assist the scenes in anyway.
It really is a radical ordinary story, superbly executed and for McGregor's directorial debut, he should be proud, I'll be looking forward to seeing more work from him behind the camera.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 5 for McGregor's directorial debut.
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Possibly