*NEW* AMERICAN PASTORAL REVIEW *NEW*

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The pace may have tested BUT Ewan McGregor delivered a solid debut and an outstanding performance.

In 1968, a hardworking man (McGregor), whose been a staple in his quaint community for years, watches his seemingly perfect middle class life fall apart as his daughter’s (Dakota Fanning) new radical political affiliation threatens to destroy their family.

The slow burning opener didn’t really get things going as David Strathairn’s (Good Night, and Good Luck) journalist Nathan Zuckerman (A Roth stalwart) attended a high school reunion. It was watchable if a little corny with the narrator reminiscing about the days of old. Wondering what happened to the high school hero who looked set to have it all; Swede Levov.

Cue a flashback to the idyllic suburban town of Rimrock. Described as “a Republican countryside” by Swede’s father (Peter Riegert – Local Hero).

I wasn’t familiar with Philip Roth’s works BUT within two months, I’ve now seen two feature adaptations (Indignation being the other). After 15 minutes, I could already check off his traits. The thought provoking social commentary (Check), the public outcries of war (Check), the overbearing Jewish father (Played to perfection by Riegert).

McGregor was brilliant. His accent may have been a little patchy BUT he was still a charismatic presence.

We went through the highs and lows of Swede and Merry’s relationship as Merry battled her speech impediment and underwent therapy to deal with her social awkwardness.

It was interesting how McGregor captured several scenes as Merry misconstrued the closeness with her father and suffered nightmares from distressing war images from Vietnam. Was that the moment where things went wrong? Her silly teen rebel phase taking a darker turn as a pipe bomb destroyed the local petrol station.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Dakota Fanning in a film. I feared the child star would disappear into obscurity. Thankfully, we had a (almost) resurgent return from the young actress as the radicalized trouble maker.

Politically active and wanting to fight the system. Taking the train and joining protests behind her parents’ backs. If anything, Fanning’s confused Merry reflected and voiced a good portion of the frustrated youth now.

Her political spats turning from healthy debates to aggressive stand-offs with Swede desperate to keep the peace. You could feel for him as he tried to reason with his daughter. Wondering why she despised him for having a business and providing a roof over her head. Fearing that these warped revolutionist views will get her hurt or worse.

Once Merry went on the run with Swede and the police looking for her, I was hooked. It was almost a tense thriller as Swede searched for the truth. Only receiving intel from a “friend”.

Valorie Curry (The Following) was brilliant as Merry’s accomplice Rita. The mind games and blackmail sending him into a frenzy. The paranoia settling in. Does she even know Merry? Is this a game? Things coming to a head in a tense and uncomfortable hotel rendezvous.

As much as I was engrossed with the pursuit, I felt everything else suffered. Anyone could have played Rupert Evans’ (The Man in the High Castle) character. Riegert wasn’t in it enough. His inability to avoid mouthing off a middle class jibe was a missed presence when the pace lagged.

McGregor certainly delivered a fractured depiction of the American dream. Something that couldn’t be more relevant for some people now. The awkward meeting with the widow of the petrol pump attendant was unsettling as Swede took the blame for Merry. Begging for forgiveness.

Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) was left on the sidelines far too much. As much as you could empathise with Dawn’s mental breakdown with the stress finally taking its toll, you felt the story was only really focused on Swede.

And that was it’s greatest strength and weakness. McGregor and writer John Romano may have highlighted crucial turning points through news stories BUT it wasn’t explored enough nor was it as hard hitting.

If anything, it was breezed over a little too quickly. Especially when Swede got caught up in the race riots. I almost didn’t recognize Uzo Aduba from Orange Is The New Black. I wish more was made out of her character as the loyal factory worker. BUT then again it would have been a different movie altogether.

I had to laugh at whoever did the make up in this movie. Considering their ages, McGregor and Connelly are still a very youthful looking couple. I don’t think tweaking their wrinkles with CGI and messing about with their noses was really needed and the ageing process as the film flashed forward was terrible. Swede and his brother (Evans) looked decrepit while Dawn only had a stray grey hair.

BUT the finale still packed an emotional punch with Swede reaching breaking point. Unearthing more than he could have ever anticipated. McGregor really delivered the heartbreak and anger perfectly as the film came to its sombre ending.

Despite it’s flaws, it was still an engaging and heartfelt drama that is worth a gander.

3/5

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3 DAYS TO KILL REVIEW

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It will take 3 days to kill the pain of watching . . . No, it’s not that bad. Unfortunately not that great either. Kevin Costner plays the hard man as well as he can. It’s just a shame that it’s the same old recycled clichéd action movie garbage that we’ve come to accept. By all means, it’s certainly watchable but that’s because I knew what to expect going in.

The trailer inevitably made it look bad ass but I didn’t really get what was promised. The joy of a shoot em up soon sithered away with that beautiful 12a certificate rearing its ugly head. McG has never been subtle. I mean this is the guy who brought us the Charlie’s Angels reboot franchise. And that’s also the problem, this is the guy who brought us the Charlie’s Angels reboot franchise. Credit where it’s due. Terminator Salvation was actually not that bad. Could have done with a little bit of that dark undertone in this.

We have the usual opening stake out that sets up bad guy, good guy. Costner playing a trained killer with . . . a cold. That’s right, coughing and spluttering away. Inevitably that would lead to something more important. But for an opening, I was thinking how did he kill all those bad men? Simple. They don’t show you it. Just a room with 30 dead men and Costner strolling out while blowing his nose. The cringe-inducing birthday phone call with his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) was terrible and so corny. Doing it while people are being shot up and explosions above him. Tut, tut, tut.

Tomas Lemarquis made a great bald, I mean Bond, villain with a dark signature move. But never going to its full gory detail. After all, it was a 12a. Inevitably the stake out goes wrong. Costner loses baldy, collapsing for some reason. That reason is that he is suffering from a terminal illness. So a botched op and a dire diagnosis, not looking good for Kev. Of course, he decides to pack it in and reunite with estranged daughter after neglecting her for 15 years. But . . . oh no. He’s needed for one last job. Deal breaker. Get this. They have an antidote that will help give him more time. Aww.

Costner plays it well. You can tell at points he is just going with it. At one point, he has to write a nice big purple bike in Paris after his daughter rejects his attempts at fatherhood. Old Cossie’s face with a nonchalant shrug says it all. The alluring Amber Heard plays the mysterious femme fatale to perfection. Not enough of her in my opinion (What?). However, once you get past her beauty (Don’t judge me), you realise her character doesn’t do much. Other than look incredibly sexy and inject Mr C with the magic antidote to keep him going. All for her own diabolical plan. Diabolical in the sense that she basically got him to do her work.

Steinfeld, the talented actress that she has proven to be in the past, is incredibly annoying. Unfortunately, it’s mainly because it’s all so predictable and clichéd. Their father/daughter relationship just seems to break up what little action there is. The bickering and snipping works well, at points, but all to an inevitable cause.

Costner’s killer soon turns into a parody of himself. The jokes in which he kidnaps a contact, chucks them in the truck work at first. But then when he keeps doing it, it gets old really quick. The action is also a little lacklustre. Costner grins like a Cheshire cat. And . . . quick edit. Bodies on the floor. Only a couple of scenes where Cos gets to kick ass. And when that happens, it’s not bad. Entertaining enough. The car chase was so quick and flat. Could you really call it one?

Also what infuriated me was, understandably, Costner’s character is ill but collapsing every time he comes close to the bald baddie? Annoying. Connie Nielsen (The Following) wins Mother of the Year for leaving her daughter with an estranged father who has been unreliable and has a mysterious past. Hmmm. Cudos for Steinfeld getting the title of the movie into her lines. The tone at times, jumps from darkly comical to straight balls out (not literally) crazy. An inevitable, and much needed, shoot em up finale boosts the slackening pace.

It’s watchable guff. Nothing more. Costner has enough charisma to carry this bullet ridden mess. Amber Heard is . . . to be expected. There are some good bits but that’s the problem, it’s a film of moments. A funny one, an action packed one, etc. I thought the scenes in which a group of squatters invade Costner’s apartment was quite funny. However, they soon overstay their welcome. Shame. 2.5/5

Currently ranks 103 out of 190!