Ewan McGregors take on Philip Roths Pulitzer-winning novel has been critically abused but its not the first hyped adaptation to sadden fervent literary fans
Everybody is wrong in Philip Roths American Pastoral. They start out incorrect. They overestimate those around them and become hopelessly confused. The personas lives are a mess; they must make a home in the breaks. But then, going beings right is not what living is about anyway, Roth( in the guise of his fictional alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman) reminds us. Its going them incorrect that is living, going them incorrect and wrong and wrong and then, on careful consideration, going them wrong again. Thats how we know were alive: were wrong.
All of which should make Ewan McGregors film version of American Pastoral “the worlds largest” pulsatingly alive patch of cinema well witness all year. The molding is incorrect. The cover is bungled. The tone is off-key. It should at least possess a certain breakneck panache; a car-crash infatuation. But no American Pastorals succession of wrong turns only serves to steer it into a creative cul-de-sac. The cause, as Variety placed it, is a movie as flat and suffocated as Philip Roths novel is furious and expansive.
Few authors have been quite so ill-served by the film industry as Roth, whose ruminative, proselytizing, deeply felt writing style appears to set all the types of traps for the Hollywood scriptwriter. The 1969 adjustment of Goodbye Columbus remains a decent, dogged pass at information materials. Since then, the movies have verged from the calamitous( Portnoys Complaint, The Human Stain) to the leadenly deferential( The Humbling, Indignation ). So its no amaze that American Pastoral( arguably the finest American romance of the past 20 years) should become a timid, mithering non-drama, in which McGregor leads himself as the sad Swede Levov, picking his route through the rubble of late 60 s Newark. Next, presumably, well get an adaptation of I Marriage a Communist, Roths tale of a fiery Jewish revolutionary who detects himself undone by his fame bride. Im tip-off Tyler Perry to direct.