Typical of our Editor that he’s more than familiar with only one of Pulitizer prize winning author Phillip Roth’s books which was ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ made into a film in 1972 for which the author also co wrote the screenplay about the sexual obsession of an American Jewish boy in quite explicit terms for its time. Unfortunately the film was rubbish and since then Roth has gone on to pen better novels several of which have gone on to be filmed including The Human Stain, The Dying Animal (the film being called ‘Elegy’) and the recent ‘American Pastoral’. ‘Indignation’ is the latest and is the feature film directorial debut of James Schamus, a respected screenwriter who is responsible for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hulk, Eat Drink Man Woman. ‘Indignation’ has all the trademarks of Roth’s books centreing as it does on a New Jersey working class Jewish student Marcus, nicely played by Logan Lerman, working at his father’s butchers shop before he goes to college where he has a sexual awakening at the hands (quite literally) of Olivia, a right little strumpet he befriends who can’t keep her hands off him or at least one part of his anatomy even when he’s laid up in hospital bed. All this is set against the Korean War and Marcus’ disaffection with the cultural surroundings he finds himself in.
Arriving at the college he finds himself having to share a room with two other students both Jewish and all shoved together by the college because of their faith and Marcus finds himself regularly accosted by the extremely civil head of the only Jewish frat house on campus. It’s something he finds easy to resist unlike Olivia (Sarah Gadon) who’s free with her favours towards him and rather than being elated at the experience he starts to obsess about who else she has done this with.
With a fear of being shipped off to Korea Marcus is uneasy from the start and his sexual awakening only adds to his anxiety. There isn’t really a plot to the film but rather a load of incidents but the undoubted highlight is Marcus debate with the college Dean (a fantastic Tracey Letts) with rattlingly great dialogue which has always been a strength of Phillip Roth’s writing and between the pair of them they make these scenes shine as Marcus, regarding himself superior to everyone, even the Dean ,in a battle of wills. Sarah Gadon is good in a part that could easily have been a bit slutty but is really deeply troubled and in a neat scene towards the end his mother warns Marcus as to why he should avoid girls like Olivia at all costs.
At almost 2 hours it may be a little too long but this is something of an art house film which although its subject matter has been covered many times before should still find an audience despite not having any big names.
Here’s the trailer…….