Ewan McGregors take on Philip Roths Pulitzer-winning novel has been critically vilified but its not the first hyped be adapted to baffle fervent literary fans
Everybody is wrong in Philip Roths American Pastoral. They start out incorrect. They underrate those around them and become hopelessly confused. The attributes lives are a mess; they must make a home in the spoils. But then, get parties right is not what living is about regardless, Roth( in the guise of his imaginary alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman) reminds us. Its going them wrong that is living, going them wrong and incorrect and incorrect and then, on careful consideration, getting them wrong again. Thats how we know were alive: were wrong.
All of which should form Ewan McGregors film version of American Pastoral the most pulsatingly alive part of cinema well witness all year. The molding is incorrect. The manipulate is bungled. The tone is off-key. It should at least possess a specific breakneck panache; a car-crash fascination. But no American Pastorals succession of incorrect turns only serves to steer it into a creative cul-de-sac. The outcome, as Variety threw it, is a film as flat and asphyxiated as Philip Roths novel is furious and expansive.
Few columnists have been quite so ill-served by the film industry as Roth, whose ruminative, proselytizing, deeply felt writing style appears to set all forms of traps for the Hollywood scriptwriter. The 1969 adjustment of Goodbye Columbus remains a decent, dogged pass at the material. Since then, the films have verged from the calamitous( Portnoys Complaint, The Human Stain) to the leadenly courteou( The Humbling, Indignation ). So its no surprise that American Pastoral( arguably the finest American fiction of the past 20 years) should become a timid, mithering non-drama, in which McGregor steers himself as the unfortunate Swede Levov, picking his lane through the rubble of late 60 s Newark. Next, presumably, well get an adaptation of I Married a Communist, Roths tale of a fiery Jewish revolutionary who notices himself undone by his celebrity bride. Im tipping Tyler Perry to direct.