American Pastoral (2016)

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American Pastoral

I really like the Fanning sisters so I’ll basically watch anything with them. I was also curious about this film because its the directional debut of Ewan McGregor. I went in blind not knowing what the film would bring but it seemed to have a strong cast, and for the little buzz it generated it remained something that I really wanted to check out. I think its a solid debut for McGregor as a filmmaker but can’t escape being too dull at times.

The film is based on a novel about a family with a daughter with a speech impediment. She witnesses a traumatic scene of the infamous monk setting himself on fire in television. After this childhood incident Merry (Fanning’s character) becomes a radical opponent of war. She starts out vehemently opposing Lyndon Johnson and the war efforts but eventually becomes the culprit in a murder after a bomb goes off. Swede (Ewan McGregor) spends most of the film trying to find his estranged daughter and find out why she is the way she is.

I think the film has strong performances as you would expect from the cast of this caliber. You immediately see the disenchantment of youth in Fanning’s character and understand how radical she is in her anti-war stance. Her pained relationship with her mother is stated quite well, and the uncomfortably in it drives her mother mad. I had no problems with the character interactions, however the film cannot escape feeling dull and prolonged. You don’t care enough to follow Swede as he tries to find his daughter, and when you finally find her, its just very underwhelming.

Its hard to care for Fanning’s character as she’s unlikable from the get go. The film doesn’t offer much else outside of a quest for a character you’d rather remain lost. The method of storytelling does not always prosper as it goes through periods of stalling and the payoff isn’t really entertaining. It gets very lost in an antiwar shuffle and remains shallow despite trying to go deep. I’d say its exciting to see McGregor get behind the camera but his first adaptation does not have enough life.

5.5/10

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