Set during the Vietnam War years, American Pastoral follows Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov (McGregor), a once all-conquering high-school athlete, who’s married to a beauty queen (Connelly) and runs the business he’s inherited from his dad. All seems well in Swede’s world until his daughter Merry (Fanning) joins the countercultural clamour of the time, signing up as a revolutionary and committing a fatal act of violence that throws all their lives into chaos.
Noyce, who inherited the project from Fisher Stevens (Stand Up Guys), has been a part of the Hollywood mainstream since emerging from the Aussie new wave of the 1970s, turning out thrillers (Clear And Present Danger) and dramas (The Quiet American) of reliable class. It’s the latter, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s Vietnam novel, that bodes best for Roth fans. With Michael Caine in the lead, it was full of subtlety and the nuance of its period. American Pastoral, a family tale set during the same tumultuous times, will demand a similarly deft touch.
Doing the actual adapting is John Romano, the screenwriter behind Matthew McConaughey thriller The Lincoln Lawyer and super-soppy romance Nights In Rodanthe. He’ll be hoping to improve on the most recent movie adaptations of Roth’s work, 2008's Elegy (based on The Dying Animal) and 2003's The Human Stain.