Directed by James Schamus
Surprisingly mature for a directorial debut feature, “Indignation” is probably the best drama you can find today in New York theaters.
First-time director James Schamus is best known as a screenwriter and for his longtime association with Ang Lee’s filmography, which includes “The Wedding Banquet”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “The Ice Storm”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, and “Lust, Caution”.
He truly did a wonderful job here by deftly adapting Philip Roth’s 2008 novel of the same name.
This realistic dramatization, bursting with emotions and high sensibility, focuses on the complex inner struggles of Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a brilliant, intense, and atheist student of Jewish origin, who leaves his home in Newark, New Jersey, to attend the small Catholic-based Winesburg College in Ohio. The year is 1951 and the Korean War makes more and more victims among the young American soldiers. Marcus’ father (Danny Burstein), a kosher butcher who can be described as temperamental and zealous, becomes overprotective regarding his only son, driving everyone crazy at home.
Thus, Marcus is clearly happy for finally having his independence, but also shows a disconcerting inaptitude to deal with the real world.
Getting a blowjob from the wealthy and nonjudgmental Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) on their first date was a big issue for the constantly uneasy, Marcus, who tries to understand the reasons for her behavior. Despite having feelings for her, the confused Marcus will go back and forth in his decisions about accepting her as his girlfriend due to more than one reason. This posture makes Olivia devastated, bringing back the ghosts of a traumatized past.
At a certain point, Marcus’ distress is so extreme that he resorts to the help of the school’s dean (Tracy Letts), a brilliant and understanding mind who already had had an interesting discussion with him about socialize, religion, and sports, in one of the most absorbing dialogues of the film.
In “Indignation”, besides a detailed look at a complicated sexual awakening and cultural displacement, Mr. Schamus shapes genuine characters with plausible problems. Thus, everything feels authentic, also thanks to the flawless performances of Lerman and Letts, who much contributed to that. It’s a profound drama that makes its bitter point about society, prejudice, love, and regret.