Indignation Movie Review
Were kids in college in the 1950s just a hell of a lot smarter than they are today? Logan Lerman plays a well-spoken, intellectual freshman who can philosophize better than most in Indignation (now on Blu-ray), a quasi-coming-of-age tale in which he meets a beautiful but psychologically fragile woman and spars with his dean.
Well-acted and interesting, but also low-key and talky in a way that ultimately doesn’t amount to a very memorable offering, Indignation relies heavily on its actors to bring the calculated screenplay by writer/director James Schamus to life. Lerman (Percy Jackson) delivers one of his finest performances, bringing nuance to a role that doesn’t have a lot of nuance; his character is smart, but he’s also condescendingly smart, stubborn and unwilling to consider alternative thought. Sarah Gadon is also excellent, and Tracy Letts is stellar.
Indignation is a fascinating, character-driven story, for a while, charged by electric chemistry between Lerman and Gadon. When the two share scenes together, the film works wonderfully. Unfortunately, Schamus, working from the novel by Philip Roth, doesn’t put them together often enough, to the degree where it’s hard to understand why Lerman’s character is so drawn to Gadon’s.
That said, the best scene of the movie belongs to an extended battle of wits between Lerman and Letts. It’s one of those scenes that is so fun to watch it stands out from the rest of the movie.
When all is said and done, though, the movie just sort of peters out in the third act. The quality doesn’t decrease—it just loses focus of what made it so interesting in the first place. The fault doesn’t entirely fall on Schamus, however; the source material, it seems, follows a similar trajectory. It may work in written form, but as a film, there just isn’t a lot of intrigue here.
Indignation is a well-made, well-acted movie, but an uninteresting third act keeps it from being much more than a footnote.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.