Berlinale: Indignation


Directed by James Schamus
Starring Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon

by Joanna Orland

Longtime film producer James Schamus has turned his hand to directing with his first feature film Indignation. Based on Philip Roth’s book of the same name, Schamus’ version is a stunted drama of very little substance.

Set in 1951 to the backdrop of the Korean war, young Jewish American Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) avoids the draft as he attends college in Ohio, away from his Newark home.  It’s there that the studious yet antisocial Messner meets Olivia (Sarah Gadon) who is a bit loose with her morals and her razor. Marcus learns to accept her for her flaws rather than classify her for her actions as he simultaneously breaks himself free from classifications regarding his religion and familial expectations.

Bookended by vacuous scenes of the Korean War, this film really doesn’t know what it’s about – albeit protagonist Marcus is at the cetnre of it all.  He’s overachieving, standing on self-imposed moral highground and overall an annoying human being.  The only respite of this film are the two scenes where Marcus is pitted against the Dean of his college – a battle of wits ensues and it is a joy to see Marcus squirm his way out of it, even with the awkwardly stunted performances by both featured actors.

It’s impossible to like a film when you don’t like, or believe in any of its shallow characters.  Especially when the film doesn’t truly understand what it’s trying to achieve.


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