Director: Ewan McGregor (2016) BBFC cert: 15
The directorial debut of Ewan McGregor is an overwrought and underpowered adaption of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Condensing the heavy weight tome to a thankfully brief running time of under two hours reduces the characters to transparent ciphers of key ideas.
While the dialogue retains its bite and humour, the handsome cinematography is at odds with the bleak allegorical tale about the destruction of social innocence and failure of the American dream.
The Scots actor mistakenly casts himself as the lead, a blonde former high school super star athlete known to everyone as ‘Swede’. He’s a now a pillar of the community but one who is singularly unequipped to cope with the fractures in his seemingly perfect life.
The Swede’s troubles are fermented by and reflect the social upheaval of the turbulent 1960s. Jennifer Connelly plays his beauty queen wife, who pointedly swaps breeding livestock for a a life devoted to real estate development. Dakota Fanning is Merry, their stammering daughter who becomes a political terrorist.
There’s madness, seduction, violence and duplicity, but the biggest betrayal is the jarringly imposed suggestion of redemption.