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“Indignation” is a classy powerhouse of restrained emotion

I love being surprised by a movie, no matter what type of a movie it is. A few weeks ago, I saw Indignation, a period piece that is just tremendous. I didn’t get a chance to write about it last week, so I wanted to double back now. It is just such a strong film, one that absolutely wrecked me, that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to rave about it a little bit. Few flicks in 2016 have surprised me like this one has. Indignation began its theatrical run last weekend on a limited basis and is an absolute must see. Trust me there folks.

The film is an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel of the same name. It follows college freshman Marcus Mesner (Logan Lerman) in the early 1950’s as he travels from his working class New Jersey town to a small college in Ohio, in part to avoid the draft and the Korean War. A good jewish boy who has never been in trouble once in his life, Marcus immediately begins having trouble fitting in, only connecting with Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), a beautiful girl he takes out on a date. Between pursuing Olivia while being puzzled by her sexual openness, arguing with his roommates, and clashing with Dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts), Marcus does not have the intended collegiate experience, and it may well cost him more than he initially knows. James Schamus directs and penned the adaptation, with supporting players including Pico Alexander, Danny Burstein, Bryan Burton, Linda Emond, Philip Ettinger, Noah Robbins, Ben Rosenfield, and more. Christopher Blauvelt provides the cinematography, while the score comes to us from Jay Wadley.

Frankly, I loved this movie. From the writing to the direction (both from Schamus) to the performances (especially the trio of Gadon, Lerman, and Letts), it’s all just fantastic. It comes together in such a fluid and beautiful yet heartbreaking way, you can’t help but be blown away. In particular, the way Schamus makes things feel traditional while also universal stands out to me. Factor in the magnificent lead turn by Lerman, alongside the stunning supporting ones from Gadon and Letts (the former is almost a co-lead, while the latter pops up judiciously), and you have easily one of the best films of the year so far. It’s brilliant from beginning to end.

Awards wise, Indignation might be a bit too small to get the attention it deserves, but one can dream. In a perfect world, it would contend for nominations in Best Picture, Best Director (for Schamus), Best Actor (for Lerman), Best Supporting Actor (for Letts), Best Supporting Actress (for Gadon), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Schamus as well), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Hairstyling & Makeup, and Best Original Score. Honestly, aside from somewhere like the Independent Spirit Awards, it’s probably Adapted Screenplay or bust here, and that’s a shame. It deserves a fate better than the one it’s likely to receive from the precursor season.

Overall, Indignation is a near masterpiece from Schamus, who is now a filmmaker to really watch out for. He’s had a nice long career as a writer and a studio head, but now he’s also a director of note. He absolutely devastated me here with this one, and I can’t wait to see what he opts to do next. If you’re a fan of Lerman, this is perhaps his best performance to date, and that’s no small bit of praise. Regardless of your reason, you all owe it to yourselves to seek this one out, as it’s so very special. You can thank me later…

Be sure to check out Indignation, out now in limited release!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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