Director: James Schamus
Starring: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts
Logan Lerman has come a long way from child roles (The Patriot) and teen roles (Percy Jackson). Now 24 years old, he has completely graduated to adult roles, and his recent filmography reflects that. Noah, Fury, Indignation; these aren’t simple movies, they require every ounce of talent an actor has to give, and Lerman is proving that he doesn’t lack in that department. The son of a Jewish orthodontics family from Beverly Hills, the kid has been appearing in major films since he was 8, and has persistently improved his craft over the last ten years. I reflect on Lerman at the beginning of this review not only because he is the untouchable star of this fascinating film, but also because I see something in him that’s worth watching as the next handful of years pass by, something that I think will be forcing us to take notice time and time again until, and inevitably, the awards start pouring in.
Marcus Messner is a young Jersey Jew attempting to leave the shadow of his family behind, to start a new intellectual life for himself that has nothing to do with his father’s butcher shop. At a time when young men are going off to war in Korea, college students are exempt from being called into action, making any one smart enough to enroll in school safe in a way that’s hard to even imagine. Marcus’ grades are more than high enough, he’s attractive, a mediocre athlete; he has his entire life in front of him, and escaping his overbearing parents is just the first step. Choosing to attend Winesburg College in rural Ohio, Marcus begins a phase of his life that’s a completely open book, ready to be written as any story he chooses.
While at Winesburg, Marcus meets the beautiful and fragile Olivia Hutton, a girl who will embody the idea that small choices make unbelievably large impacts on the courses of our lives. Olivia has been cracked and repaired; her family life is unbearable, she has attended rehab, she has a reputation for being an easy girl, and her attraction to Marcus might not be in his best interest. But love doesn’t appear by design, it catches you when you least expect it, and Marcus falls for Olivia to a degree he has never experienced. Now at a crossroads between smart choices and giving into his desires, this young man, who has every opportunity in the world, must chart his course toward safety or danger.
Lerman shines in what is his best role to date. It was the character he was born to play; young Jewish boy, family business, choosing a different path. And he was always up to the task, never seemed to be trying to catch up to the material, was always one step ahead of the emotion of the moment. It was no simple, one-note persona either, Marcus is a complicated character. He’s full of himself but vulnerable, intelligent yet a baby in a world he knows nothing about. Lerman was able to keep his head on straight and fill the part admirably. The best scene in the film came when Marcus was forced into an extended conversation with his Dean, played by the tremendous Tracy Letts, a too-long, too-uncomfortable masterpiece of a moment that almost made the film, and showcased two talented actors facing off in what would be a pivotal and revealing piece of the plot.
Lerman & Letts were both excellent, but I wish the same could be said about Sarah Gadon, who I have enjoyed elsewhere, but did not here. A Dangerous Method, Enemy, Belle; she’s a classic beauty and a talented actress, but her delivery was off in this film, which marred the relationship between Marcus and Olivia, keeping the film from reaching the great height that may have been possible. She was asked to make an extremely emotionally flawed character completely believable, and was just not able to pull it off. Too bad, because the rest of the film was fairly wonderful, with excellent music, nice pace, rich scenery, and a really powerful presence which kept me captivated. The very beginning and the very end might have been a bit too twisty and unnecessarily dramatic, but I’m sure that’s how the book read and was how the book became so popular. I wish they could have done away with the hooks, let the story speak for itself, because the film is good enough on its own without any gimmicks, strong enough to stand on its own.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (16×9 Widescreen, 1080p), the video quality of this Blu-ray disc is quite excellent, showcasing the era in an impressive way and letting the film’s cinematography shine. The color palette of the 5os, the aged feel of the college, the hospital room in which Marcus stays for a time; every detail was brought to life with great vibrancy and focus.
Audio – The Blu-ray was done in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with subtitle choices in English, Spanish, or English SDH. Also, menu sounds can be turned on or off from this section. The sound quality of the film was very strong, with a perfectly placed soundtrack that really supported the action in front of it with a nice combination or period music and original background score.
Extras – There are a few special features on the disc, including a Bookmarks toolkit. Timeless: Connecting the Past to the Present is a 6-minute interview featurette that focuses on setting the stage for the film to be successful. Perceptions: Bringing Philip Roth to the Screen is a 7-minute interview segment concerning Director James Shamus’ adaptation of the book. And Also from Lionsgate is a collection of four trailers: Southside with You, American Pastoral, Genius, A Hologram for the King.
Highly Recommended. Indignation should not be overlooked as one of the strongest films of 2016. It isn’t perfect and won’t ultimately compete with the top dogs of the year (Moonlight, La La Land, Fences), but definitely deserves its due attention, especially for the stellar work of its star, Logan Lerman. He’s a great young talent, someone we’ll be hearing more and more from, and major credit should be showered his way for what he was able to accomplish here. His moments with Letts were brilliant, if his moments with Gadon were a little less so, and he may not receive Best Actor consideration, but he should at least be given a nod by those who see this film and experience his burgeoning talent. The video quality of this film is very high, as is the audio, and there are a few in-depth extras for those wanting more. Indignation is a movie not to miss, something small and special and good.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay