DVD Review: Indignation

indignationdvd1STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: James Schamus | CAST: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Ben Rosenfield
RELEASE DATE: 11/8/16 | PRICE: DVD $13.99, Blu-ray $16.99
BONUSES: two featurettes
SPECS: R | 111 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | Spanish and English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall

Adapting Philip Roth’s writings to the big screen has been a study in hits and misses dating back to  the late 1960s/early 1970s, which saw the release of the well-received Goodbye, Columbus and the critically panned Portnoy’s Complaint.

The latest person to take a stab at Roth’s prose is prolific longtime producer-writer James Schamus, who has worked extensively with Ang Lee on such efforts as The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain. Like, those works, Indignation (adapted from Roth’s 2008 novel) involves an individual dealing with his values and identity issues while facing the pains of growing up.

Sarah Gadon and Logan Lerman in Indignation

Sarah Gadon and Logan Lerman in Indignation

In his feature film directorial debut, Schamus casts Logan Lerman (Fury) as Marcus Messner, a Jewish kid from Newark who heads to a small conservative college in the Midwest to both get away from his overbearing parents and avoid fighting in the Korean War. At college, he has issues with his roommates, calls himself an atheist, and gets romantically involved with the pretty Olivia (Sarah Gadon, Maps to the Stars), whom he later discovers has some serious psychological problems.

While the production captures 1950s college life wonderfully—it’s recalls Mike Nichols’ campus-set work in Carnal Knowledge–Indignation is anecdotal in nature, so Marcus weaves in and out of relationships with his friends, parents and Olivia throughout, without much closure or dramatic punch. The film’s fireworks are saved for a long, fiery altercation between the student and the school’s Dean (Tracy Letts, Elvis & Nixon) and some jarring final revelations.

Despite its free-flowing nature (which can be interpreted as aimless or artful depending on the viewer’s taste), Indignation received some strong reviews when it was released in theaters on a limited basis earlier in the year. It will likely get more attention from indie followers and Roth fans at home just as the acclaimed author’s latest cinematic adaptation arrives in the form of American Pastoral, directed by and co-starring Ewan McGregor.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.