Sneak Peek: Indignation
From Roadside Attractions and Summit Entertainment: Based on Philip Roth’s late novel, Indignation takes place in 1951, as Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a brilliant working class Jewish boy from Newark, New Jersey, travels on scholarship to a small, conservative college in Ohio, thus exempting him from being drafted into the Korean War. But once there, Marcus’s growing infatuation with his beautiful classmate Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), and his clashes with the college’s imposing Dean, Hawes Caudwell (Tracy Letts), put his and his family’s best laid plans to the ultimate test. (Runtime: 110 minutes)
INDIGNATION had its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Written & Directed By: James Schamus
Starring: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Linda Emond, Danny Burstein, Ben Rosenfield
This transcript has been lightly edited:
The Referee: The Critic and I got to see an advance screening of a movie called, “Indignation.”
The Critic: Indignation!
Ref: A drama! movie coming out — coming up quickly — in theaters July 29. We were very interested to find out more about this particular movie. It takes place during, or a little after, the Korean War.
Critic: Yeah — during.
Ref: During the Korean War, but during the peak of drafting …
Ref: … of the Korean War. It’s directed by James Schamus. He adapted the screenplay — he also wrote the screenplay — from a Philip Roth, you may know, who’s a very heady writer. But, let’s talk about this plot.
Critic: Logan Lerman, who’s one of my favorite young actors — he was in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and other things — he plays Marcus …
Ref: Maaarcus! (laughter)
Critic: … Marcus Messner. And, he’s a Jewish guy, going to college. He has parents who are really protective. They don’t want him going into this draft.
Ref: Let’s talk about: He is an East Coast Jewish person.
Ref: So — very much — city life, Jewish …
Critic: From Jersey. So, he goes off to college — a small college in Ohio (laughter) — and his roommates are Jewish, as well. So, it’s that kind of thing. It is 1951. So, you know what’s going on there. While he’s there — he’s extremely studious, by the way.
Critic: Intense about it, great student: That’s his focus. His roommates are older than him. And, that leads to some tension, because he meets a young girl at college.
Ref: Oh, does he meet her, indeed! She meets him. (laughter)
Critic: Yeah. She’s Olivia Hutton. She’s beautiful. She takes an interest in him, and they’re in the same class. She’s got a past, and she shares it with him. (laughter)
Ref: She shares it with him verbally and non-verbally. (laughter)
Critic: There you go. Now, along the way, he meets the dean, played by (laughter) Tracy Letts.
Ref: The great Tracy Letts. Yes, the same person who wrote “August: Osage County.” (laughter)
Critic: Yes. (laughter) Woo! So, Tracy Letts — and, boy oh boy, they have a scene that could’ve taken up the whole movie. (laughter)
Ref: It’s actually … OK, I have to say this: I know we’re giving this review, but it is the longest (laughter) scene in cinematic history. I mean, that scene is good 20 minutes long of talking! But, we have to say, Tracy Letts was absolutely amazing in that scene. I have to give it to him. He held it down.
Critic: Oh, he sure did! So, you know, there’s this thing going on with him and the dean. Push comes to shove, he ends up in the hospital. We won’t tell you how. His mother’s called in. And, he finds out that his parents — their relationship isn’t doing so well. But, his mother decides that she’s gonna compromise: If he does something for her, she’ll do something for him.
Ref: Yeah. And, so, then you get this whole — this young man has to really make a choice as to what his future’s going to look like. And, he definitely has a bright future, but he also has another path. And, so, by the end of it, you see the choice that he makes and the consequences of that choice. Now, let’s talk about the performances.
Critic: Yeah — and just to say, the movie’s bookended by an older woman, thinking back on the past. So, just know that comes in. Who’s the older woman? Huh-huh! You’ll have to watch it to find out.
Ref: You’ll find out. So, let’s talk about the performances: I have to say that Tracy Letts, obviously, is one of my favorite performances. But, Linda Emond — who you can see in “The Good Wife” (laughter) …
Critic: Yes. (laughter)
Ref: … she’s kind of everywhere on TV; she’s a great actress — pulled it off! as the mother. She plays this mother who is in this very stressful relationship, who needs to let it out. But, then, at the end, she knows how to whip it back together. She just stole her scenes.
Critic: Yeah, that final scene with her, in that little diner or wherever they were, look! Moment to moment, it was so good. Love you, Linda.
Ref: Yeah, worth the watch. Tracy Letts, obviously, we said was amazing and wonderful. The two leads: Olivia, the young woman, for me, she was OK. She did her thing. She was supposed to play someone very disturbed and strange, so she does that. I really liked what Logan, who plays Marcus, did. He really shined. I loved the gravity of his voice. I loved the intensity that he gave in his scenes. He’s a growing actor, in my opinion.
Critic: Yeah, growing actor. Here’s the thing: I mentioned the beats, the moments, with Linda Emond. Tracy Letts also nailed a lot of his. He found some great humor in his scenes, which was needed here. But, if you know Philip Roth, you know that there are lots of heavy themes going on here. So, the script, there are some problems. And, in the presentation, the changes from moment to moment, for me …
Critic: … weren’t as clear as they could be. And, I think that Logan — there were opportunities for him to do even more with his great talents and skills, especially in his scenes with Tracy Letts. I think that that could have been tackled a little differently.
Ref: Yeah, but you gotta have direction to do that. And, I’m sure the director was amazing. But, it’s kind of like, it just needed maybe a couple more rehearsals.
Ref: But, you know, listen, what do I know? All I know is: If you want to enjoy some great performances, if you want to just dig around a little bit in very heady things, like religion …
Ref: … racism, war, depression …
Ref: … sexuality …
Ref: … if you kinda wanna just dig around in those things and you just kind of want someone to — not flesh it out for you — but just present it to ask more questions: Maybe this movie is for you. Is it perfect, for me? No. Was it terrible? Absolutely not!
Ref: It just — it raised more questions.
Critic: That’s right. It’s something that you’ll leave — if you go with someone to see it — you’ll leave the theater, and you’ll talk. I mean, you will talk about it. Also, the thing for this is: You really see the film’s potential. That’s what grabbed me. I was watching it, thinking, “Oh. You could do this with it. You could do that with it.”
Ref: Yeah, ‘cause it was beautiful, right?
Ref: It was beautifully shot.
Critic: I loved the costumes. You know this, Ref.
Ref: The aesthetic, yeah.
Critic: Yeah, the cars, all of that. So, if you are a fan of serious drama, then this certainly is for you [even] with its imperfections — it doesn’t matter. I think that it will give you enough — it’s enough meat on its bones — that you’ll definitely be thinking about it afterward.
Ref: You’ll definitely be thinking. So, hey! July 29. If you want to check it out, go for it!