Opening 16 Feb 2017
It’s 1951 and young Marcus has just returned home with his parents after attending the funeral of a U.S. soldier who tragically fell in the on-going Korean War. This sad end to a young life suddenly raises discussions about the future of Marcus. Luckily he can head off to college and escape the close control of an over-protective father as well as the responsibility of taking over the family kosher butcher shop. He arrives in Weinburg College in Ohio, determined to concentrate solely on his grades in order to become top of the class. True: his grades are exceptional, but Marcus has little experience practicing the social skills necessary for sharing a dorm room with other students or having level-headed discussions with Dean Caudwell. Perhaps, due to having grown up in a Jewish neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, his place should be among the 80 other Jewish students who interact in their own fraternity. Perhaps his classmate Olivia Hutton will leave a positive impression, even open a totally new experience, namely: dating a girl.
This is an excellent film, definitely worth your viewing time – for several reasons. It is based on the book by Philip Roth, his 29th book, published in 2008, two years before Roth gave up writing altogether at age 77. In spite of a long career as an author, Roth has a firm place in the modern world of today. This film played at the 2016 Berlinale film festival. Another book, American Pastoral, was the basis for the film of the same name which opened the 2016 Filmfest Hamburg. Yet another book, The Plot against America, published in 2004, is being widely discussed (e.g., by The New Yorker Magazine) as a true reflection of the present U.S. government.
Director Schamus and his team took great care to research the prices, food (kosher meat, French restaurant), and clothing of the 1950s. New Rochelle College stood for Weinburg College. Filming sites were in New York: Queens, Brooklyn, Westchester, and Long Island. Logan Lerman is excellent as Marcus, and appears in almost every scene. Three actors -- Tracy Letts (Dean Caudwell), Linda Edmond and Danny Burstein (Marcus’ parents) -- are well-established from the New York theater scene. (Becky Tan)