THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA – Review by Susan Granger

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.