AMERICAN PASTORAL. FILM, B. DIRECTOR EWAN McGREGOR. “Hostages to Fortune.” Francis Bacon.

Ewan McGregpr and Jennifer Connelly

Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly

This is a film based on a Phillip Roth novel. It stars Ewan McGregor as Seymour “Swede” Levov , Jennifer Connelly as Dawn his wife and Hannah Norberg as their daughter Merry. The film takes place in the “60’s and 70’s.

Swede is Jewish but his light hair and pale skin earned him the nickname   “Swede” in high school where  he was a star athlete and student. Swede’s future looked bright, he took over his father’s prosperous, high end, glove business and married Dawn, a Catholic girl of Irish descent and former Miss New Jersey. Together they established themselves in an upscale community near Newark where Dawn has a hobby dairy farm and he commutes to his glove factory

They have a daughter Merry who at sixteen is deeply affected by the Viet Nam War and the social turmoil of the time. She begins to assert her independence by going to New York to see “friends”. At first on day trips and then overnight.

Swede and Dawn are upset by her radical politics and the antiwar,  anti- government posters and literature she has in her room. Swede tries to talk to her but her responses are anarchic and full of venom for the middle class life they lead and the policies of the government. Between Dawn and Merry there always has been a deep chasm as Merry, since a child has resented Swedes loving relationship with his wife. He loves Merry as well but she is jealous of Dawn.

Their discussion of politics is acidic, he of the middle class center and she of the anarchical, radical left.

Finally Swede says why you don’t demonstrate in Rimrock (their suburb) instead of New York, believing she will be less susceptible to radical influences than in New York.

Soon after there is a bomb blast in a small local post office killing the man who operates it.

Merry has disappeared and Swede and Dawn are beside themselves with worry.

The police conclude Merry was the perpetrator but she has disappeared into an underground organization like the Weathermen.

Swede searches for her but she remains missing.

Slowly his life and marriage, which was so promising in the beginning, disintegrate. His health declines ending in death.

The film is full irony and the lesson that  children are our “hostages to fate”.

Swede was never able to give up on his daughter but Dawn soured and turned away to pursue plastic surgery, become a dilettante in the arts and to run with and artsy crowd in Rimrock.

The film shows McGregor’s inexperience at directing but never the less it is well laid out. The cinematography is less than stunning or compelling and the picture could have been shot and cut to make the story more dramatic.

However McGregor shows promise in his selection of material and his sensitivity in presenting it. It has a lot more to offer than what Marvel or DC Comics is selling.

If Arthur Miller can stage “Death of a Salesmen” in Beijing then there is hope for Phillip Roth.

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