Combustible Celluloid
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With: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Linda Edmond, Danny Burstein, Ben Rosenfield, Philip Ettinger, Ben Rosenfield, Sue Dahlman
Written by: James Schamus, based on a novel by Philip Roth
Directed by: James Schamus
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and some language
Running Time: 110
Date: 07/29/2016

Indignation (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Days of Roth

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on Philip Roth's 2008 novel, this fine period drama feels both simple and intimate while at the same time effectively covering some complex moral, spiritual, intellectual, and romantic themes. Making his directorial debut, James Schamus is formerly the head of Focus Features, and a frequent screenwriter for Ang Lee's films (The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, etc.), so he knows a thing or two about high-class cinema.

In 1951, Jewish student Marcus (Logan Lerman) attends a small Ohio college, where he attempts to settle down and study hard. He declines to join the Jewish fraternity and he resents the school requirement that he attend chapel; he also becomes fed up with his distracting roommates and requests a single room. Working in the library, he meets the beautiful WASP Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) and lands a first date with her. She performs a sexual favor on him in a parked car that leaves him more confused than excited, but he eventually decides to continue seeing her. Unfortunately, the dean (Tracy Letts) calls him in for a long chat, and then his mother (Linda Emond) visits with some bad news, and a warning.

Schamus takes his time with Indignation, allowing the intelligent talk and deep thoughts to settle in and around the intricate, delicate production design and camerawork. The performances are superb, with Tracy Letts easily stealing his couple of scenes, and all the actors convey the confusion and anguish of their situation — as well as hope and love — without betraying the movie's more intellectual concepts. In other words, it's surprisingly engaging in the moment, but will leave viewers wanting to discuss what they've seen.

Summit's Blu-ray release looks great, preserving the carefully color-coded look of the 1950s, but is a bare-bones edition, containing only two short studio-produced shorts. A digital copy is included.

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