Indignation (2016) – movie review

Share now:

IndignationMovie Review by EDF

Stars: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts
Director: James Schamus

Every so often, a movie will come along with a story that seems simple enough, but with a lot more going on underneath the surface. Based on the Philip Roth novel, Indignation is set in 1951 America, a country at war with Korea, where avoiding conscription could lead to life changing consequences.

We follow Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) who is attending the funeral of a classmate who has died while fighting overseas in the Korean War. The mother of the deceased comments to Marcus that he is a very smart boy and we hear that repeated a number of times from different people. Education is Marcus way of escaping conscription. Unfortunately, some of his schoolmates who are not continuing on with their education by attending college will be shipped out soon to fight. Marcus cannot wait to go to college and we find out the reason why.

Because they only have the one son, Max (Danny Burstein) and Esther (Linda Emond) tend to be overprotective of Marcus. Max keeps a very close eye on his son and more so when they are working in the Newark family owned kosher butcher shop. Feeling like the four walls are closing in, escaping to Winesburg College in Ohio could not come around fast enough.

Sharing a room with two other students, Betram Flusser (Ben Rosenfield) and Ron Foxman (Philip Ettinger), Marcus does not share the same interests or make any real connection with them. Nor does Marcus have any interest in joining Winesburg’s one Jewish fraternity Zeta Tau Mu, even though they try to recruit him. As far as Marcus is concerned, his library job and his studies leave him little time to pursue other activities. He resents the time wasted on the weekly sermons in the chapel that he had to sit through just to gain merit points. All of his planning and studying goes out the window when he sees Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) in the library one evening. From that point onwards, Marcus questions who he is as a person, his feelings and his views about the world around him.

What we find with this story is the indignation of being labelled by society, or decisions made by other people for your own good. The intention might be heartfelt, but it can sometimes lead to irreversible consequences. This is a beautifully shot and well acted movie. The performances from all involved are believable and more so from Lerman and Gadon. A brilliant confrontation between Marcus and the college’s imposing Dean, Hawes Caudwell (Tracy Letts) will have you on the edge of your seat as the frustrated freethinker goes up against a conservative authoritarian. This is sure to be one of the best scenes of the year and who knows, maybe the movie will receive some awards because of it.

5 out of 6 stars