If you’re into binge-watching, this ‘alternative reality’ mini-series is not only compelling but also timely, detailing the dangers of electing a politically naïve, ‘celebrity’ President, who subsequently forges dubious international alliances and enables prejudiced supporters to commit hate crimes.
Adapting Philip Roth’s sinister, semi-autobiographical 2004 novel, David Simon and Ed Burns have created a cautionary tale about anti-Semitism in the United States, embodied by aviator Charles Lindbergh (Ben Cole), a Nazi sympathizer who catapults from national hero to the Presidency in 1940 on an isolationist platform of keeping the U.S. out of World War II.
Set in Newark, New Jersey, the story revolves around young Philip Levin (Azhy Robertson), his inflexible insurance-agent father Herman (Morgan Spector), worried mother Bess (Zoe Kazan), older brother Sandy (Caleb Malis), and hot-headed cousin Alvin (Anthony Boyle).
Pivotal to the plot is Bess’s spinster sister Evelyn (Winona Ryder), who falls in love with Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf (John Turturro), a Lindbergh supporter who advocates moving American Jews to rural areas of the country so they’ll become “Americanized” and abandon their Jewish customs.
To launch this insidious program, Jewish teenagers, like Sandy, are enticed by the Office of American Absorption to spend summer vacation on farms in the Midwest. (In reality, however, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who advocated a similar form of social engineering through population resettlement.)
Directors Minkie Spiro and Thomas Schlamme augment the authenticity by their cinematic use of extensive newsreel footage, adopting an allegorical tone that feels chillingly relevant today.
Unfortunately, this show tanked in the ratings when it was released mid-March, losing to the true crime reality series Tiger King. And if you’re intrigued by the ‘alternative reality’ concept, check out Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle,” the Netflix limited series Hollywood and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, The Plot Against America is an opportune, evocative 8, streaming as a six-hour mini-series on HBO.