Indignation full movie review - A Must-See Drama
(RATING: ????½ out of 5 )
THIS FILM IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: An underrated film that deserves to be seen...one of the
year's best dramas.
SYNOPSIS: In 1951, a young Jewish man goes to college to avoid the
Korean War and falls in love with serious consequences.
JIM'S REVIEW: Based on Philip Roth's novel, Indignation tells the
familiar story of a young repressed Jewish man falling in love (or
lust) with a beautiful Gentile woman in the 1950's era. A rehash of
Goodbye Columbus without the comic edge and irony, this film follows a
similar outline by the same author, but is far more solemn and serious
in its treatment. This is typical Roth territory in which our hero will
try to overcome the obstacles placed in his path as fate deals its
?Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) is an intellectual loner. Yearning to
escape from his domineering Jewish family, he goes off to a
conservative Christian college rather than fighting in the Korean War.
It is there he meets Olivia (Sarah Gadon), a beautiful blonde vision of
loveliness and their first date leads to a budding romance. It is also
there that he encounters an omnipotent and powerful head dean, Dean
Caudwell (Tracy Letts, in a powerful performance, but more on that
later), who has great difficulty coming to terms with this all too
rational and radical student and avowed atheist.
The screenplay adaptation by James Schamus, who also directed the film,
is first rate. It allows the characters to intellectualize their
philosophies with such eloquence. The film starts off a bit too
leisurely but establishes characters and place so effortlessly. The
film structure begins as a flashback with narrative voice-over that
doesn't really make much sense until its full circle ending, with one
of the most powerful closing shots that emotionally left me gasp. Mr.
Schamus' literate script aligns with his skillful direction, as this
talented filmmaker captures the mindset of this nostalgic but troubled
era in an understated fashion. (Speaking of fashions, the costume
design by the gifted Ann Roth is a visual treat as well.)
?About the midway point, there is a remarkable dramatic scene that
highlights the glorious direction, screenplay, and acting unlike any
other film thus far this year. It is a rather lengthy confrontation
between our idealist liberal young hero sparring with a smug
conservative dean. The teacher becomes intellectually inferior to his
student as their conversation continues. The tension builds ominously
and slowly in this cat-and mouse gamesmanship, maneuvering from one
point of view to the next. It is startling its its subtlety and impact.
Simply put, it is the highlight of this film and one of the most
engrossing scenes one will see this year in any film.
?The acting is superb. Mr. Lerman as Marcus is perfectly cast and
carries off the innocence of youth angle in this coming-of-age tale.
This actor commands the screen and makes his character quite believable
and caring. His love interest played by Ms. Gadon definitely looks the
part, but her acting skills never reach the depth of her written
character. She needed to be that 50's female icon, a Grace Kelly type,
but comes off as a second-tier Kim Novak or a third -rate Cybil
Shepard. She's good, but not good enough when compared to the stellar
acting by others in this movie. The film is populated with top-notch
Broadway veterans in supporting roles who certainly know their way
around a script. Danny Burstein plays Marcus' over-protective father
and he is so strong in his nuanced acting that one wishes he had more
screen time. Adding fine support in smaller roles are Ben Rosenfield
and Pico Anderson.
?But there are two truly great performances that deserve award
recognition: Linda Emond as Esther, Marcus' loving mother, who has a
wonderful speech as she tries to steer her son into making the right
decision. It is delivered with such skill and passion. Tracy Leets as
the egotistical and bigoted Dean Caudwell, is a marvel, creating one of
the most terrifying teacher role models since J.K. Simmon's sadistic
teacher in Whiplash. The hatred and intolerance of others is so
condensed in Mr. Leets' body language and facial expressions that the
end results counteract his words in the most unsettling manner. (Oscar
voters, are you listening?)
?The film's theme about life' s choices, about the road we take or did
not take, about the small detours that can have consequences which will
eternally haunt our existence, is foremost in this thought-provoking
story. Mr. Schamus has made an compelling case with his wonderful
debut, Indignation. Let us hope this independent film makes a
compelling reason with the movie-going audience for compulsory viewing
and is not lost amid the blockbusters and cinematic hyperbole that is
usually the par for the summer course. Run to see this film while you
can! It demands your attention!