Indignation

In 1951, Marcus Messner, a working-class Jewish student from New Jersey, attends a small Ohio college, where he struggles with anti-Semitism, sexual repression, and the ongoing Korean War.

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  • ★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    It's been almost 50 years since someone's made a good movie from a Philip Roth novel (that would be 1969's Goodbye, Columbus) — and thank God that didn't stop James Schamus from trying. The former Focus Features CEO imbues this period drama with the same searing classicism that defined the masterpieces he wrote and produced during his tenure as studio head (i.e. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and Logan Lerman absolutely aces his part as an emotionally implosive Jewish kid who enrolls at a Catholic college in order to avoid the Korean War. Come for the nuanced study of institutional guilt, stay for Tracy Lett's show-stopping set pieces and Sarah Gadon's heartbreaking turn as one of cinema's great shiksa goddesses.

  • ★★★★ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd

    71/100

    A chilling illustration of nails that stick out being hammered down, lent additional blunt force by the strangeness of (fairly recent) history. Tom Townsend would surely complain—from today's perspective, a college guy freaking out after getting blown on the first date seems even more ridiculous than the premise of Mansfield Park—but it's not particularly difficult to think of modern equivalents to such feminine "unseemliness," whether or not they're what Roth had in mind. (Haven't read the novel.) Also rare and exciting to see intellectual ferocity onscreen, even if it's the annoyingly self-righteous undergrad variety. Schamus wisely makes no effort to run before he can walk, taking visual cues from Ang Lee's earlier films rather than his later ones, and trusting the actors with the heavy lifting. All three leads are superb (though Lerman and/or Schamus fail(s) to establish Marcus as the kind of kid who'll behave as he does in the dean's office; his recalcitrance and passionate conviction seem to come out of nowhere), but once again I'm truly floored by Gadon, whose perfectly mannered performance in Cosmopolis made everyone else in that film look slightly adrift, and who here somehow pulls off the oxymoronic quality of "aloof warmth." Schamus trusts us, too—much appreciated. It's never spelled out, for example, that the dean is aware of and passively condones Jewish students' paid chapel surrogates; we're expected to grasp it from the way that Marcus' guy gets intercepted (by folks who are clearly waiting for him) right after Marcus rejects the campus machinery. You don't have to play by the rules, but you do have to accept the rules. Otherwise, it's hammer time.

  • ★★★★ review by Jordan Rowe on Letterboxd

    Often playing more like theater than a film, "Indignation" makes for a compelling character drama, thanks to a strong screenplay and a cast of terrific performances, anchored by Logan Lerman, who continues to prove he's one of the most exciting young actors we have today.

  • ★★★★ review by Ben Lane on Letterboxd

    If only all the great love stories could begin with an atheist student (at a conservative college in Ohio, no less) getting a blowjob in a cemetary.

  • ★★★★ review by Aaron Hendrix on Letterboxd

    It's strange being dead. As I have been for I don't know how long.

    In many ways I find myself at a loss trying to sum up my feelings about Indignation. It's gorgeous, thoughtful, well-paced, fascinating, and frustrating cinema.

    Now, technically, this film is quite flawless. It's impeccably shot, lit to perfection, and acted with conviction, if not quite with nuance. However, all of the characters, save Olivia, are immensely frustrating. They do and say stupid things, things which may seem realistic, but are nonetheless incredibly annoying. This isn't necessarily why I've given it a 4 star rating, that's mostly for the lack of nuance. But, it is what I'm referring to when I said that this is a frustrating movie.

    Marcus so totally bungles so many of his confrontations and conversations that I couldn't help but peer at these scenes through my fingers. At points, I just wanted to reach through the screen and slap him across the face. I get that this is a melodrama, but good lord Marcus, if you just kept your mouth shut you could have avoided like 90% of this.

    But, this frustration, in many ways echoes the sexual frustration that Marcus feels in the stifling society of the 50s - which apparently are now the go-to for tales of repressive conservatism in American society. Can we switch it up a bit in future? Maybe go for the 40s or 30s. Regardless, the way in which Schamus - the director - imagines this frustration is fascinating; nightmares coagulate into vignettes that bleed into reality. It's an interesting approach and one which distinguishes his melodrama from other, similar melodramas.

    Still, in spite of my problems with the film, this is absolutely one of the best films of the year. Don't let it slip by. I give Indignation a 4/5.

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