American Pastoral (2016)



Critic Consensus: American Pastoral finds debuting director Ewan McGregor's reach exceeding its grasp with a well-intentioned Philip Roth adaptation that retains the form, but little of the function, of its source material.

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AMERICAN PASTORAL follows Seymour "Swede" Levov, a legendary high school athlete, who grows up to marry a former beauty queen and inherits his father's business. Swede's seemingly perfect life shatters when his daughter rebels by becoming a revolutionary and committing a deadly act of political terrorism during the Vietnam War.
R (for some strong sexual material, language and brief violent images)
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Ewan McGregor
as Swede Levov
Jennifer Connelly
as Dawn Levov
Dakota Fanning
as Merry levov
Peter Riegert
as Lou Levov
Rupert Evans
as Jerry Levov
David Strathairn
as Nathan Zuckerman
Uzo Aduba
as Vicky
Molly Parker
as Dr. Sheila Smith
Valorie Curry
as Rita Cohen
Hannah Nordberg
as Merry (12 years old)
Julia Silverman
as Sylvia Levov
Mark Hildreth
as Agent Dolan
Samantha Mathis
as Penny Hamlin
Ocean James
as Merry (8 years old)
David Whalen
as Bill Orcutt
Corrie Danieley
as Jessie Orcutt
David Case
as Russ Hamlin
Max Ivcic
as Hamlin's Son
Tommy Lafitte
as Freddy
Peter Gannon
as Police Officer
Brian Knoebel
as Young Guardsman
Emily Peachey
as Hospital Nurse
Carter Ellis
as Guardsman #1
Jennifer Vos
as Sanatorium Nurse
Nick Marzock
as Reunion Singer
Davion Traylor
as Demonstrator #1
Chukky Okobi
as Demonstrator #2
Siovhan Christensen
as Demonstrator #3
Yannick Hogarth
as Demonstrator #4
Justin Lonesome
as Demonstrator #5
Steven Ravid
as Reunion Greeter #1
Ron Emanuel
as Reunion Greeter #2
Kathy Emanuel
as Reunion Greeter #3
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Critic Reviews for American Pastoral

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (29)

The actors emote deeply and energetically, but there's a disquieting sheen of artifice.

Full Review… | October 25, 2016
Tribune News Service
Top Critic

It's a remarkably committed effort that takes a few seriously misguided turns along the way, even as its actors lunge at psychological depth with every scene.

Full Review… | October 22, 2016
Time Out
Top Critic

There was reason to expect more from American Pastoral, and just as much reason to figure it was doomed from the start.

Full Review… | October 21, 2016
AV Club
Top Critic

It's a grueling movie, and a thin one.

Full Review… | October 21, 2016
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

In the end, it's too polite and considered a portrait of a rude and chaotic world, but as with most Philip Roth adaptions, there's plenty to talk about afterward.

Full Review… | October 21, 2016
San Diego Reader
Top Critic

Even considered entirely separately from its source material, American Pastoral is hopelessly weak.

Full Review… | October 21, 2016
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for American Pastoral


First Hit: Interesting look back into the 1960s and, although it was confusing at times, it did make me think about a powerful time in America. If you grew up in the 1950s and 60s, you probably knew or had heard of "the guy" who was the most popular guy in school, was on all the high school teams, was a letterman on all those teams, and married the prettiest girl in class. They led the idyllic lives. Here we have Seymour "Swede" Levov (Ewan McGregor) as that man. We are introduced to his legend through the 45th high school reunion where his the Swede's brother Jerry Levov (Rupert Evans) speaks with Nathan Zuckerman (David Stratharin), a friend of his and Seymour's. It is through Jerry telling Nathan the story that this film unfolds. Swede marries Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) a New Jersey beauty queen. Because she is Catholic and Swede is Jewish, the Swede's father Lou (Peter Riegert) wants to meet and question Dawn prior to their marriage. The Swede tells her to be strong during the meeting because this is what Lou admires. This discussion is well done and a strong scene in the film. Swede ends up running the family business in Newark and is easily in the upper middle class. He and his wife move to a small rural town where they begin to raise their daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning). The film sets the ideal life with family dinners, mother and daughter working their cows, and even the birth of calves. However, this pastoral scene starts to get darker as Merry begins to show her independence and anger towards the US Government's involvement in the war of Viet Nam and societies' bent towards making money. I recall this attitude in many people including myself and the protest movements during this time. What complicates her internal struggle is that she also stutters. The psychologist they have tells Dawn and Swede that it is because she is struggling with her mom's beauty and perfectness. Merry runs away and is accused of blowing up the local rural post office (government facility) and killing the proprietor, whom the whole family knows. She disappears and Swede is distraught and beside himself and cannot let go that his daughter might have become part of an underground movement. Dawn begins to disappear from living, sells her cows and begins to slip into a deep depression. From a filming standpoint, if feels over controlled and directed. The film is longer than needed to tell the story and this is a director issue as well. To know what I mean watch a Clint Eastwood directed film and this one, Eastwood's films are crisp, sometimes almost too crisp, and he gets the story told. In this film we have some long and languished scenes that supported the idyllic life they were living but some could have been cut or made shorter and made the film better. I also didn't believe the reasons for Merry's stuttering and I don't know if this was a screenplay issue or a directional issue. McGregor was good as Swede but I also think his directing of himself got in the way of his performance. I did think, as a director, many of the scenes were well presented and setup well. Connelly was fantastic. I was mesmerized by her ability to put together a wonderful series of transitions as Dawn went from beauty queen romanced by the absolute best guy available, to a mother who cared, to cow farmer, to concerned and troubled mother, to depressed wife, and to remade wife through plastic surgery. Fanning was very strong in this very difficult and complex role. Although I didn't fully buy her scripted logic for her actions, I bought how she made it work. Riegert was particularly good as Swede's opinionated and robust father. John Romano wrote the screenplay from the Philip Roth novel. I do think there were some weaknesses in the script, and McGregor didn't help this much. Overall: This could have been a stronger film with a crisper screenplay and clearer direction.

Michael Doud
Michael Doud

American Pastoral is quite possibly the best film of the year. I sincerely hope it is nominated for all the Academy awards! Absolutely worth seeing in theaters, a haunting and insightful film that won't be soon forgotten... Critical backlash is clearly indicative of hegemonic interests attempting to stifle American Pastoral's subversive impact. Ewan McGregor is a masterful actor and director who has crafted something truly important, a new classic!

Jerome Berglund
Jerome Berglund

Lili Penkower Having lived through the 60's and know first hand how the war in Vietnam, racism and poverty aroused powerful emotions in young people, I thought that American Pastoral captured that time very well. This film accurately demonstrated the pain that many families experienced when their sons and daughters began to see their world very different than their parents, sometimes with devastating consequences. I thought that this film, with wonderful acting, amazing visuals and directing, didn't just describe the story but pulled the viewer into the emotional trauma of that time.

Lili Penkower
Lili Penkower

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