Release Date: Aug. 12, 2016
Running Time: 110 minutes
Based on the 2008 novel by Phillip Roth, Indignation represents a cerebral, stylish but flawed directorial debut by James Schamus, Ang Lee’s frequent producer/writing partner and the former CEO of film distributor Focus Features. Set during the early 1950s, with the Korean War casting a long shadow over the proceedings, Indignation follows the sexual awakening of a Jewish college student from New York City who struggles to fit in at a small college in Ohio. Making a logical leap from The Perks of Being a Wallflower to Indignation, Logan Lerman admirably grapples with the emotional turmoil his Marcus endures as a result of his attraction to Sarah Gadon’s suicide survivor Olivia. Indignation very much deals in clichés when it comes to initially depicting this “taboo” relationship between a young, naïve Jewish man and a Gentile woman whose sexuality is both easily misunderstood and the source of gossip and scorn. As we get to know Olivia, Schamus finds the complexity to her relationship with Marcus that extends beyond their social and religious differences to the point that Marcus’ infatuation with Olivia becomes overwhelming and integral to the choices he makes that ultimately decide his fate. The relationship also leaves Marcus racked with a guilt that seems so unnecessary but speaks to who he is. Still, Indignation suffers from the restrained Gadon’s inability to make Olivia all she's supposed to represent to Marcus. Gadon’s stiffness stifles the sense of personal freedom and comfort in her own skin that Marcus finds so appealing in Olivia, even if it’s nothing more than an illusion. Gabon fails to convince us that Olivia is the threat to Marcus that his mother (Linda Emond) believes she is not matter how hard Indignation depicts her as such. If the moments Lerman and Gadon share lack the necessary intimacy needed to fully articulate Marcus’ powerful feelings for Oliva, the confrontations between Marcus and his college dean (Tracy Letts) crackle with such intensity that you expect Lerman and Letts to kill each other halfway through the film. Lerman goes at it twice with Lett’s no-nonsense dean, Hawes D. Caudwell, a spiritual man who pities the pragmatic Marcus for his lack of faith. All the social and religious tensions of the 1950s bubble to the surface during Marcus’ first conversation with Caudwell, which Schamus slowly and cannily shoots as an interrogation from Marcus’ perspective. Some of what Caudwell says is certainly misinterpreted by Marcus, resulting in an uncomfortable but revealing back and forth between student and dean. Lerman and Letts give as good as they get—with the former constantly on the defensive against the latter—and their combative exchanges are electrifying to watch. The rest of Marcus’ time in college unfolds with a mundanity that fails to offer him many life lessons that he can cling to when things go awry with Olivia. Whether Marcus truly loves Olivia—or is in love with the idea of first love—doesn’t matter. In Indignation, love is all that matters. It is the driving force behind our decisions, both good and bad. Indignation, though, never gives us enough of a reason to believe in the decision—good or bad—Marcus ultimately makes in the name of love.
Aired: Aug. 11, 2016
Web site: http://indignationfilm.com