The plot against america hbo review -Across the pond, though, things are not so great. Having conquered France and most of Eastern Europe, Hitler begins his assault on the British. As President Franklin Roosevelt considers entering the war on behalf of the British and the French, aviation hero and Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. (Lindbergh’s run is fictional. While he never ran for president, he was against entering the war until Pearl Harbor). This, of course, alarms the Levins and their Jewish neighbors and, while the poignant criticism against Lindbergh by newscaster Walter Winchell offers some comfort, tension in the community begins to rise.
But not all news is bad news. Herman has been offered a promotion, which will allow the family to move out of their cramped two-family house into a spacious single-family home outside the city. While the suburb is beautiful and calm, Bess points out that they would be the only Jewish family in the neighborhood and reminds Herman of her difficult childhood as part of the only Jewish household in her community. To make matters worse, the neighborhood is right near a German bar, where anti-Semitic comments are all too common and Lindbergh’s photo is propped up for all to see. Herman eventually decides to turn down the promotion, but that does little to quell Bess’ fears, who now worries that the company will see Herman’s rejection as a sign of disloyalty. (A note for those that are not experts in 1940s American history. The Jewish community was not assimilated back then as well as they are today. Universities imposed limits on the number of Jews they would accept, and it was difficult for them to rise up in certain professions.)
There have been some terrifying, essential, and, unfortunately, timely miniseries of late. HBO’s “Chernobyl” is a look back at the specter of manmade disaster combined with disinformation. Netflix’s “When They See Us” recalls an egregious example of racism in the justice system. And HBO’s “Years and Years” delivers a what-if about the near future, the environment, and technology wrapped in the warm story of a British family.
OK, so this type of miniseries is not exactly the kind of programming that’s going to soothe coronavirus anxiety and sorrow. Still, TV doesn’t come any sharper, if you’re a student of life and its social, cultural, and political realities.
Joining the fright club is HBO’s “The Plot Against America,” an intense new six-part miniseries from David Simon and Ed Burns of “The Wire” that airs on Monday nights. I can’t remember seeing a period drama — it’s set from 1940 to 1942 — that speaks so directly and specifically to the present moment. If this vision of our country doesn’t seem creepily relevant to you, you’re probably not paying attention.
Based on the 2004 novel by the late Philip Roth, it’s an alternate history in which FDR loses the 1940 presidential election to Charles Lindbergh, the anti-Semitic and fascistic aviation hero who stirs up populist rage as he promises to keep us out of World War II. The clips of the American president on a stage beside Nazis, and of the American flag beside the Nazi flag, are only some of the many newsreel images in the miniseries that will make you shudder.
The growing anti-Semitism in the United States, enabled by the Lindbergh administration’s contempt for Jews, is shown through the experiences of the Levin family (modeled after Roth’s) of Newark. “They’ve always been here,” one character says about anti-Semites in America. “Now they have permission to crawl out from under their rocks.” The parents, the outspoken Herman (Morgan Spector) and the quieter but wise Bess (Zoe Kazan), have different styles but, ultimately, the same values as they try to protect the family. Preteen son Phillip (Azhy Robertson) is an innocent kid who suffers growing anxiety about the state of the country, while the teenage Sandy (Caleb Malis) exhibits a disturbing naiveté about Lindbergh and his moves against the Jews.
There’s not a bum performance in the bunch, with Kazan and Anthony Boyle, as Herman’s nephew, particularly outstanding. Winona Ryder, as Bess’s lonely sister, and John Turturro as a Southern rabbi who tries to work with Lindbergh, are also quite effective, as they ignorantly opt for trust and optimism in a time of mass deception.
“The Plot Against America” is indelible piece of work about how politics reaches into personal lives.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.
Plot Against America captures a terrifying aspect of Nazism that Hunters misses
Nazis have never been hotter on TV than they are right now.
Thanks to the wannabe authoritarian in the White House and the white supremacist cronies filling out his cabinet, TV producers have been racing to bring symbolic depictions of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi army to the small screens. The symbolism practically writes itself.
On Amazon, Hunters offers the most obvious response to Donald Trump with its simple-but-effective revenge fantasy.
The creator of Hunters, David Weil, told Inverse in a recent interview that he sees Quentin Tarantino -- maker of Inglourious Basterds -- as “the master.” It’s no surprise Hunters takes a lot of what is great about Basterds and runs with it.
And on HBO, Westworld will get in on the fun in its third season with a new subplot devoted to a World War II-themed park full of robot Nazis.
But among this wave of fantasy stories about killing Nazis, only one, The Plot Against America, which debuts March 16 on HBO, accomplishes the most difficult and delicate aspect of telling a story about the Third Reich:the allure of Nazism.
Based on the 2004 novel by Phillip Roth, The Plot Against America explores an alternate history where President Franklin D. Roosevelt is challenged and defeated by Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In real-life, Lindbergh expressed anti-Semitic and pro-German beliefs.
In The Plot Against America, those beliefs are masked by an isolationist slogan: “A vote for Lindbergh is a vote against war.” Lindbergh’s victory keeps America out of WWII and allows fascism to infiltrate the country in increasingly disturbing ways.
Roth’s book is told from the perspective of a young boy named Phillip, the youngest son of a Jewish family in New Jersey that gets caught up in Lindbergh’s rise to power. The HBO adaptation, from The Wire creators David Simon and Ed Burns, follows several members of the family, and devotes plenty of time to Phillip's older brother Sandy, revealing how fascism corrupts the minds of children.
When the story begins, Sandy is a young teenager hiding photos under his bed and sneaking off to see the presidential candidate land his plane at a local airport, despite constantly hearing from his parents and their friends that Lindbergh is a Jew-hating fascist. He doesn’t understand why a man he once saw as a hero is now considered a villain, but he can’t help but get caught up in the excitement.
But as Plot Against America progresses, Sandy's Lindbergh obsession is at least partially driven by a teenage desire to rebel, even if he’s enthralled by the power this fictional president represents. Sandy is old enough to know Hitler is evil, but not mature enough to realize that his own father isn’t “worse than Hitler” for refusing to let Sandy visit the White House. For Sandy, fascism represents the chance to defy his parents, and that’s something any 15-year-old would likely leap at.
The Nazis in Plot Against America are charming, charismatic, and good-looking. It’s easy to see why a child, or even an adult, might find that alluring. In a time where fascism is more relevant than it’s been in decades, it’s a sharp reminder that the most sinister things can also be enormously appealing in the moment.
Amazon’s new show Hunters misses this point almost entirely. Set in 1970s New York, the series follows a group of Nazi-hunters facing off against a secret network of Hitler supporters in America. With Al Pacino playing the lead Nazi-hunter, the show is plenty of fun. It also provides a powerful, if not totally accurate, depiction of the horrors of the Holocaust through a series of flashbacks. But Hunters falls flat in its depiction of the Nazis themselves.
In this show’s alternate history, Nazis are one-dimensional villains, more alien than human. There’s nothing alluring about them, and though we’re told they’re constantly adding to their ranks, it’s tough to imagine anyone supporting them. One young Aryan henchman assigned to surveil an FBI detective pursues his goal with the single-minded determination of Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men. Yes, he’s terrifying, but he’s not particularly magnetic. You’re never concerned that an entire movement is going to spring up around him, as it does with Roth’s Lindbergh.
Hunters might make for good entertainment, but over the course of its 10 hour-long episodes, it doesn’t have much to say about the nature of fascism or the terrifying appeal of Nazism. In just six episodes, The Plot Against America does all that and more, reminding us the worst type of evil rarely presents itself as such. The true villains are the ones smart enough to make us think, even for a minute, that they might actually be the good guys.
After taking some time to calm down, Herman apologizes for making a scene and goes looking for Alvin to bring him home. But his troubled nephew has other plans. After one of his friends takes a beating from some anti-Semitic thugs, he and Shush head to the same German bar that Herman and the family drove by just a few days ago. They follow two drunken Germans on their way home and beat them to a pulp. “That’s for Daniel, you Nazi f—ks,” they yell out as they are fleeing the scene.
Now it’s your turn. Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!
If you like TVLine, you'll LOVE our email news alerts! Click here to subscribe.
TAGS: HBO, The Plot Against America
GET MORE: Polls, Premieres, Recaps