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Parents' Guide to

American Pastoral

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Talented cast can't save mature, disappointing adaptation.

Movie R 2016 126 minutes
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Despite starring talented actors, this drama unfortunately joins the pile of mediocre Philip Roth film adaptations. McGregor, who also directs, is glaringly miscast. Yes, he looks WASPy, but he's not the brawny, Nordic sports star that Roth's writing evokes (think a Chris Hemsworth type). The entire ensemble, including David Strathairn as author Nathan Zuckerman (a Roth stand-in), who narrates the story, does a fine job, but this story lacks the impact, thought-provoking social commentary, and empathy of the book.

Instead, the Levovs end up coming across as a whiny girl who fancies herself a revolutionary, a beautiful but unfulfilled housewife, and a clueless husband who can't see that his family is falling apart. The cinematography is impressive, with memorable, evocative shots of both landscapes like the Levov estate and more personal moments. Although the story's historical context and political questions are still relevant (what does it mean to make it in America? How are women, religious minorities, and people of color disenfranchised?), the movie American Pastoral falls quite short of Roth's revelatory novel.

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