Wednesday, August 17, 2016

[Review] Indignation

1. strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base; righteous anger

Logan Lerman (you might recognize him as Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is the bright freshman in James Schamus' poised debut feature, Indignation--an engrossing time bomb adaptation of Philip Roth's novel of the same name.

Dusted with a soft glow and steeped in genuine period detail, the film follows Marcus (Lerman), a young Jewish man working at a Kosher butcher shop in Newark. As Marcus' friends are shipping off to the Korean War, an academic scholarship saves him from battle. At school, he meets the radiant, inquisitive, and complicated Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon, an "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" alum).

What begins as a somewhat typical first year of college tour with a surprisingly good amount of subtle humor (and an awkward BJ), ends up taking a dark and dramatic turn when Marcus learns Olivia Hutton has a suicidal past and is a former psychiatric hospital patient. The narrative approaches the tough topic of mental illness, the drawbacks of conformity, and the complex chains of fateful events and choices that ultimately lead people to their death--all viewed through an early 1950s lens.

The story deliberately burns with talky, lengthy scenes--stacked with astute dialogue and escalating conflict. This is most prominent during the film's brilliant centerpiece--a sprawling conversation between Marcus and the Dean (an excellent Tracy Letts). It's likely one of the longest scenes of the year (it pushes toward 20 minutes) and it'll be a major point of discussion for those who see this. You'll be wondering if it'll ever end--but not in a bad way. It's a damned good scene. A real forehead sweat-wiper. It goes from small talk to serious business to heated arguments to interrogations to outbursts and to--yes, puking. It also produces some golf clap-worthy exchanges of sharp and loaded diction, exhaustive exercises in fundamental logic, and breathtakingly sustained tension.

Given the film's literary nature, it sure helps that this thing is so well-acted. There's some remarkable supporting turns from Tracy Letts and Linda Emond (Marcus' mother). And Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon's leading performances are beyond skin-deep, exhibiting inner turmoils that mesh with the film's drab and somber tone. Indignation finishes as a major downer--the type of conclusion that would leave you feeling empty if you didn't already have knots in your stomach. It probably isn't a film you'd rush to watch again--not just because it makes you feel bad, but also because it'll linger with you long afterwards. 

( 8/10 )

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