Posted Nov 19 2016
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Indignation - This Movie Muddles Its Rocks

Dir: James Schamus

Starring Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts

Schamus leaves his long time collaborator Ang Lee behind and takes his place in the director’s chair for the first time, here adapting Philip Roth’s novel. Logan Lerman (fulfilling all the promise he showed in Perks of Being A Wallflower) is young Jewish Marcus, leaving his New Jersey butcher father behind and heading to a faith-based mid-west university where he finds his ideals and his handle on morality challenged. Not least by Gadon’s beguiling, sexually precocious but deeply troubled classmate.

Schamus has a strong feel for atmosphere here as well as performance. But the film as a whole is slow to engage. It threatens drama from Marcus’s Jewish background, then from Gadod’s relative promiscuity. But neither come to fruition, and little fills that void. Until Lerman’s student and Letts’ Dean go one on one for a brilliantly protracted scene that balances humour and drama and remains the film’s standout (almost stand alone) moment.

As non-committal as Indignation appears to be at times, it does feature three very committed performances. Letts is on fine form, Lerman shows a side previously untapped, but it is Gadon (so good recently in 11.22.63) who really shines, never allowing the innate vulnerability of her character to overwhelm her performance as a whole.

It also has a wraparound narrative “trick” that Schamus doesn’t really manage to pull off. But there’s a lot here to enjoy nonetheless.

 

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