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Indignation Review

Longtime Ang Lee collaborator James Schamus (he wrote nine of Lee’s films, including The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), makes his directorial debut with another attempt to adapt Philip Roth for the big screen. 

Indignation stars Percy Jackson himself, Logan Lerman, as Marcus Messner, a Jewish student matriculating at Ohio’s Winesburg College in 1951. There, Marcus, an avowed atheist, dates a beautiful, tragic blonde named Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon, Sadie from Hulu’s Stephen King adaptation “11.22.63”) and butts heads with conservative Christian administrator Dean Caudwell (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts, in a showy role usually reserved for the big name needed to sell/promote a small prestige picture like this). 

A mid-film hospital stay for Marcus slows down what is otherwise an intriguing dramatic narrative anchored by Lerman’s most confident performance yet—and he was already pretty good in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and David Ayer’s Fury. His Marcus is intelligent and angry, though it is never quite clear why; he has it better than his peers fighting in the Korean War. Marcus’ obstinate nature can make him a difficult protagonist to sympathize with, especially considering where he ends up; it is Olivia, thanks to Gadon’s open fragility and cracked coolness, who engenders the most fondness, though her problems are myriad. 

Indignation may be another peek at an over-analyzed time, seen again through a postmodern lens, yet it is a fresh-enough take on the decade to fool viewers into thinking this life has yet to be examined.