On Friday night my husband and I went to see “Indignation”.
I had been intrigued with seeing this movie for a while now because of star Logan Lerhman and an NPR interview I heard with writer/director James Schamus.
Since I had not read the novel by Phillip Roth I didn’t know much about the story other than it involved a young Jewish man named Marcus (Lerhman) who gets caught up in a whirlwind romance in 1951 with a young woman named Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon). I don’t know exactly what I was expecting but I liked the movie a lot. Now that I am a couple of days removed I see the influence of Ang Lee, who Schamus worked with on several films when I was at Focus Features.
The film is subtle and beautifully shot in the same way Ang Lee’s films are and just like Lee’s films “Indignation” makes you think and look below the surface.
There was a lot going on in the film. The subtle anti-Semitism faced by Marcus is upsetting but not surprising. The anti-Semitism that led to the holocaust was still very much alive and kicking in 1950’s America and this film does a good job of showing that.
The looming threat of the Korean War is a shadow that follows Marcus through the entire film. I also found the story very interesting in terms of the way it explores the issues surrounding mental health. As much as the treatment of mental health has improved and the stigma surrounding it has lessened there are still things in the film that ring true today. At one point in the film somebody says that weak people’s greatest strength is their weakness because they drag everybody down around them. That is as true in 2016 as it was in 1951. I also loved how the film touched on the issue of conformity. In Post-World War 2 America conformity was everything and Marcus is not a person that conforms to what people think he should do.
Then, like now, the fact that he doesn’t do what is expected of him upsets the authority figures around him. The fact that certain events happen after Marcus does conform to certain things is heart breaking. I also found a conversation with Marcus and his mother (Linda Emond) fascinating because of how the tables turn.
Spoilers follow so beware, it made me wonder why so often it is acceptable for a child to ask his mother to stay in a marriage that she is miserable in but it’s unacceptable for mother to ask her child to stop dating somebody. If you think about both asks are pretty awful.
The acting was great. Just like he did in 2012’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Logan Lerhman gives a great performance as a sensitive young man. The characters a similar enough to play into Lerhman’s strengths as a performer but not so similar that it feels like he’s repeating himself. As Olivia the performance by Sarah Gadon is wonderful, she does a great job of adding layers to the role.
Linda Emond is equally good as Marcus’ mom. All of the other supporting roles are well played. And the direction by James Schamus is top notch.
The film has started to disappear form theaters but it was worth the view for anybody who likes quality film making.
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Here is a description:
Justin Gomez and his sister, Terri, have never been close. Separated by nine years and distant in adulthood, Justin and Terri have little in common, except for the love of her three children. In the days before they embark on a road trip to visit the father that once abandoned them and their now deceased mother, both Terri and Justin are dealing with unexpected changes in their lives. Justin surprisingly realizes he might want more than a series of one night stands after a first date goes unexpectedly well. After a lifetime of being a strong type A personality, Terri is forced to confront the reality of the end of her marriage. As they hit the road, with Terri’s children in tow, they find themselves forced to rely on and confide in each other following a devastating event. Confronted with memories from the past and challenges from the present, Terri and Justin must dig deep and unearth the truth about themselves and their parents in order to build a new family based on their love for each other.