American Pastoral

Synopsis: Seymour Levov, going by the nickname of 'Swede' in the Jewish community he was born into, was even more of an all-American than Douglas Fairbanks himself. He had just everything an American idol can dream of: not only was the tall muscular young man a high school star athlete but he married a beauty queen named Dawn in the bargain. And as if all this were not enough, Swede later became the successful manager of the glove factory his father had founded, which allowed him to live with his wife in a beautiful house in the New Jersey countryside. Well-mannered, always bright, smiling and positive, conservative but with a liberal edge, what bad could ever happen to him? And yet...this was reckoning without fate and its obnoxious irony, Swede and Dawn's nemesis manifesting itself in the person of Merry, their beloved daughter who in her teens unexpectedly turned into a violent activist.
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director(s): Ewan McGregor
Production: Lakeshore Entertainment
  1 win & 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
108 min




Let's remember the energy.

America had won the war.

The depression was over.

Sacrifice was over.

The upsurge of life was contagious.

We celebrated a moment

of collective inebriation

that we would never know again.

Nothing like it in all the years

that followed

from our childhood

until tonight,

the 45th reunion of our high school class.

At 30 or 40, a gathering

of my old classmates

would have been exactly the kind of thing

I'd have kept my nose out of.

But at 62,

I found myself drawn to it

as if in the crowd

of half-remembered faces

I'd be closer to the mystery

at the heart of things,

a magic trick that turned time past

into time present.

The Swede.

Swede Levov.

During the war years, this was

a magical name in our neighborhood.

Of the few fair-complexioned students

in our predominantly Jewish public school,

none possessed the Viking mask

of this blue-eyed hero, the Swede.

Big brother of my best friend, Jerry,

born into our tribe

as Seymour Irving Levov,

the greatest high school athlete

New Jersey had ever seen.

Watching the Swede, people could forget

the way things actually were.

We could forget the war.


The Swede went off to the Marines in '44,

just missing the end of the fighting,

and came home to Dawn Dwyer,

a plumber's daughter from Elizabeth,

who made it all the way

to the Miss America pageant

in Atlantic City.

A shiksa.

The Swede had done it.

But before he could marry Dawn,

she had one great test to pass;

She had to meet the old man,

the Swedes father,

Lou Levov, founder and owner

of Newark Maid gloves.

[Seymour] He just wants to ask you

a couple of things, that's all.

[Dawn] "That's all"?

Can't you answer for me?

[Seymour] He wants to get to know you

and he's not an easy guy,

- but if you stand your ground...

- [Dawn] Oh, Swede.

[Seymour] He'll respect that.

He'll respect you for it.

I'll be right there.

[Lou] Dawn, let's get down

to brass tacks.

What do you people say

about Jews?

[Dawn] My family doesn't talk much

about Jews.

I don't mean that as an excuse.

We don't talk much

about anything.

But marrying a Jew

isn't a big deal.

Until the issue

of what to raise the kids as.

I would want our child

to be baptized, yes.

Baptized? No.

That's a no.


Baptism, it washes away original sin.

Without it, if they die, they go to limbo.

Limbo, I don't know about,

but baptism, I can't allow.

It's important to me,

Mr. Levov.

All of the sacraments

are important.

Like communion, the Eucharist.

What is that?

Well, everybody kneels

and you eat the Body of Christ.

I cannot go that far.

I'm sorry.

I have the highest respect,

but my grandchild

is not going to eat Jesus.

- I can give you Christmas.

- What about Easter?


She wants Easter, Seymour.

- What about Catechism?

- No! Whatever that is.

Now, both of you, we have to talk

about the bar mitzvah.

Why can't we just let him decide?

A child cannot decide.

But I don't want a bar mitzvah.

Then I don't think

we can reach an agreement.

- Dad.

- She wants the child to decide?

A child cannot decide.

Then we won't have a child.

We can marry,

but we won't have children.

Miss Dwyer,

you are as pretty as a picture.

I congratulate you

on how far you've come.

Your parents must be proud.

But I think we should just shake hands

and everybody go their own way.

I'm not leaving.

I'm not going to go.

And I'm not a picture,

Mr. Levov, I'm myself.

I'm Mary Dawn Dwyer

and I love your son.

I love him.

That's why I'm here.

So, please...

Let's go on.

[Nathan] So, the old man

was won over.

In a few years, the Swede took over

the glove factory, built it up.

He commuted from the home

he and Dawn had made together

30 miles west of Newark,

out past the suburbs

in wealthy Old Rimrock,

where they were raising

the child they had,

a daughter, Merry.

Count! Where are you?




I hear him.

[Merry] Count! We're here!


Come on, Count.

[Seymour] Penny, Russ,

how are you doing?

- How's the family, Mr. Levov?

- [Seymour] Real good, thanks.

- You two have a good rest of your day.

- You, too, Mr. Levov.


[Nathan] Something was

smiling down on him.

This is the way I thought

it would always be.

[Merry] Daddy!

Life would open its arms

and he would carry all before him.

He was the Swede, after all.

- [Seymour] Hey,

- [Merry] Hey.

Won't you play the music

so the cradle can rock

To a lullaby in ragtime

Sleepy hands are creeping

to the end of the clock

Play a lullaby in ragtime...

Jerry Levov.

God, Nathan!

I didn't expect to see you here.

Well, I didn't expect

to see you either...

I was sure you'd find all this

sentimentality repellent.

Yeah, I do.

This nostalgia. Bullshit.

- You wanna find a spot?

- Sure.

So, why did you come?

[Nathan] Well, of all the forms

of bullshit available,

this was the most likely

to have unsettling surprises.

And you like

unsettling surprises?

I suppose I do.

Hey, did you see that display

they have for your brother?

Like I said,

I'm not one for nostalgia.

We were... I don't know,

we were probably ten,

and we went to watch

one of his practices.

He ran the ball and his teammates

took him down and they piled on.

And we were worried

for a second, you and I.

Worried about the Swede?

No, never.

No, we were,

because they took him down hard.

Rate this script:3.0 / 1 vote

Philip Roth

Philip Milton Roth (March 19, 1933 – May 22, 2018) was an American novelist and short-story writer. Roth's fiction, regularly set in his birthplace of Newark, New Jersey, is known for its intensely autobiographical character, for philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction, for its "sensual, ingenious style" and for its provocative explorations of American identity.Roth first gained attention with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, for which he received the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. He became one of the most awarded American writers of his generation. His books twice received the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle award, and three times the PEN/Faulkner Award. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 novel American Pastoral, which featured one of his best-known characters, Nathan Zuckerman, a character in many of Roth's novels. The Human Stain (2000), another Zuckerman novel, was awarded the United Kingdom's WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year. In 2001, in Prague, Roth received the inaugural Franz Kafka Prize. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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