Movie Notes: American Pastoral

Since I’m on my Philip Roth kick, I decided to watch this movie based on one of his three best novels.

The movie is very disappointing, my friends. The story is sanitized of all complexity and reduced to “bad guys vs good guys.” This is unfortunate because Roth’s whole thing is that nothing is ever that simple and human beings are deeply imperfect. The filmmakers turned Swede Levov, the main character, into this angelic creature, the perfect father who has no life, no soul, and no existence outside of his love for his daughter. That’s definitely not the Swede of Roth’s novel. And it’s not any human parent on this planet, and thank God for that.

The movie completely erases Swede’s philandering, his second marriage, and anything in him that isn’t utter perfection. You couldn’t possibly find anything more antithetical to Roth’s way of seeing the world. The movie is completely anti-Roth. I have no idea how it’s possible to misunderstand the novel so badly.

I now want to re-watch The Human Stain. I watched it a while ago but was too mesmerized by Anthony Hopkins’ talent to notice much else about it.

2 thoughts on “Movie Notes: American Pastoral

  1. Interested in your thoughts on the recent fall from grace of his biographer, Blake Bailey. Interestingly, after Norton dropped the hardcover of the biography, the same publisher who scooped up Woody Allen’s cancelled memoir is going to be its paperback publisher. This is interesting because, one, it’s not a big (now) four publisher, and two, because the publisher has basically decided it doesn’t give a shit about cancel culture. The profit incentive, and unwillingness of competitors to touch these two books, means that this independent press is going to reap the rewards of said competitors’ idiocy. It’s worth noting that they also published some political dude’s anti-Trump book, so they’re not driven by any ideology other than bottom line. Kind of respect that.

    re: Roth, it’s a funny situation where he was culturally accepted as a ‘womanizer’ for so long that all attempts to cancel him failed. Thus the buck got passed to Blake Bailey (though in his case, I think it’s likely he was a bit of a lecherous scumbag – a friend interacted with him when he visited her college writing program, and even before this stuff blew up she had some things to say about him. But I digress).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The reason why I’m re-reading Roth’s novels is precise because of Bailey’s biography! I bought it because it was cancelled, started reading it, and couldn’t resist going back to my favorite novels as I read about them. It’s a very good biography. I recommend it to anybody who is interested in Roth.

      As for the allegations against Bailey, I keep wondering about the funny coincidence of allegations blowing up exactly at the moment when a person gets a major career boost. It happens time and again. The “victims'” pain boils over precisely when the “victimizer” is about to enjoy a notable success.


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