Tag Archives: Jennifer Connelly

American Pastoral

26 Oct

Ewan McGregor’s uneven adaptation of Phillip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “American Pastoral” extends the trend of Roth novels not quite hitting the author’s intended notes on the big screen. It also marks McGregor’s first foray behind the lens, which shows promise and may have borne bigger fruit had he not also cast himself as in the pivotal role of Seymour “Swede’’ Levov, a blond-haired, blue-eyed gridiron god looking starkly Scandinavian against fellow Newark Jews. Early reviews have claimed McGregor miscast, but yet none cite suggestions of who would work. Jude law, Andrew Garfield, Brad Pitt? The list is endless, but if you’re going to cry foul, have a bird in the hand.

102116i-american-pastoralMcGregor, the British actor who played Obi-Wan in the “Star Wars” films, is passable for the man delivered through the Greatest Generation and blessed with much. In the wake of the war he marries a non-Jewish beauty queen (Jennifer Connelly), takes over the family glove manufacturing business and moves out to WASPy Old Rimrock of Morris County. But as the 1950s shift into the 1960s, Swede’s world is upended by the women in his life: Merry, his sweet, effervescent daughter cursed with a pronounced stammer, witnesses the iconic monk immolation that swept TV screens in 1963 and blossoms into a radical activist (played with palpable turmoil by Dakota Fanning) who may be responsible for the firebombing of Rimrock’s post office that leaves a cherished townsman dead. Merry goes underground and Connelly’s Dawn has a nervous breakdown, only to rise an adulterous mass consumer moved on from the memory of her daughter. Swede never relents, and blames himself. Continue reading

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Aloft

23 May
Paste Magazine May 19, 2015
<i>Aloft</i>

Much of what transpires in Aloft washes over you like a hypnotic dream, with peril and anguish looming at the corners, ever ready to flood the delicate drama at the core of director Claudia Llosa’s film. It’s more a sensual experience than a narrative, and while the dystopian prophecy boasts a concrete plot—or two—Llosa has loftier ambitions. Think The Tree of Life or Life of Pi, but Llosa’s film never quite spreads its wings.

Set somewhere in a slightly alternative reality, in the near future, in a place that’s rooted very much in the here and now, Aloft centers on a French journalist (Melanie Laurent) who’s making a documentary about a reclusive female faith healer living in a remote compound on a frozen arctic lake. She connects with a troubled falconer (Cillian Murphy) with ties to the much sought one, who can harness the power of nature to cure terminal illnesses. Given that such skills in a traditional office park might result in long lines and traffic headaches, the tough-to-reach outpost somewhat makes sense—though, if it’s such a bitch to get to, might not the dying and the needy expire long before arriving at the doorstep of salvation?

In a separate spindle, some 20 years earlier, a single mother (an alluring Jennifer Connelly sporting a rat tail) toils on a pig farm raising two boys. The youngest is sick and without much prospect, while the older, through reckless abandon, constantly puts his feeble younger sibling at risk (joyriding in a pickup truck on thin ice). Connelly’s Nana, desperate, turns to a New Age-y sect, where the head, considered a drunkard and a charlatan by nonbelievers, is rumored to remedy those whose doctors have closed the book on. Continue reading