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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Family > Post WWII > Politics > Literature > Depression > American Pastoral (2016/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)

American Pastoral (2016/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B/B- Sound: B/C+ Extras: B Film: C+

Ewan McGregor has always been one of my favorite actors and here he gets in the director's chair for his feature film debut for the bizarre hit-and-miss drama American Pastoral (2016), which is based on the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novel of the same name.

My interest in the film came from it being filmed near Pittsburgh a few years ago and I was eager to see if I could spot any of the locations, lnowing the area personally. From a production standpoint, the film is pretty impressive, as it completely sells as a period piece with great cinematography, old cars, and period appropriate costumes. The cast is solid as well with McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning in lead roles. The problems with the film lie in the script, which has some plot points that seem to be missing a scene or two connect them and a quick and lackluster ending that left me disappointed.

The film stars with a high school reunion where we learn about Swede (McGregor) a man who seemingly had it all in his youth. He had a gorgeous wife Dawn (Connelly), was a school athlete with many medals in the trophy case, and was becoming the heir of a successful glove making business under his father. When Dawn and Swede have a daughter named Mary (Fanning) who ends up having a speech impediment, she grows up to be very political in the current Post War state of America and becomes involved by friends in New York to become a part of several protests. Butting heads with Dawn in her teen years, Mary one day goes missing after a Government Post Office is bombed with the police pointing fingers at Dawn as the culprit, virtually ruining the lives of Swede and Mary. When Swede gets a lead as to where his daughter may be in hiding, he discovers a horrific truth about her current state. American Pastoral also stars Peter Regert, Uzo Aduba, Molly Parker, and Rupert Evans.

I'm surprised this film isn't getting any Oscar buzz for acting as the performances are all very strong here. I feel like Dakota Fanning is kind of looming in the shadows of her sister, Elle Fanning, now that she found success with Neon Demon and other pictures. This film proves that Dakota is still a strong actress as she sells the impediment and her chemistry with McGregor onscreen is effective. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the film from its marketing but all in all, the translation from page to screen is where the film suffers the most, as other areas are strong.

Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1, the transfer here is gorgeous with a highly cinematic look and high contrast as an overarching color style throughout, trying to look like Edward Potter paintings (Herbert Ross' deconstructive musical Pennies From Heaven (1981) with Steve Martin & Bernadette Peters did as well). The sound mix is an English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 track that sounds clean and clear throughout with little complaints. A digital UV copy is also included as well as DVD not credited on the package for some reason that is not bad for the format.

Special Features...

Audio Commentary by Ewan McGregor

"American Pastoral: Adapting an American Classic" Featurette

"Making the American Dream" Featurette

Worth a watch for filmmaking and performances alone, American Pastoral seems like it needed a couple more drafts of the script before the production started. Still, as a first time director, Ewan McGregor didn't do half bad.

- James Lockhart



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