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Review: Student reaches breaking point in ‘Indignation’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

A college freshman confronts issues of faith, sexuality and personal identity in “Indignation,” a verbose and rather stiff coming-of-age story in 1950s America.

Your typical campus romp it isn’t.

Based on Philip Roth’s 2008 novel, “Indignation” follows Marcus (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s” Logan Lerman), a Jewish student who leaves his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, to attend a small college in Ohio.

There he meets Olivia (Sarah Gadon), and when their first date ends in an unexpected sexual act, Marcus is thrown for a loop.

He’s overwhelmed by his disrespectful roommates, the demands of his parents back home and his college’s requirements that students attend religious gatherings 10 times a year.

Everything comes to a head in a contentious meeting with the school’s dean (Tracy Letts), which unfolds as a long volley between the two parties that’s worthy of the stage.

The other pieces in writer-director James Schamus’ very personal debut just don’t fit. A framing device casts a strange pall over the entire film and places it in an odd context that doesn’t mesh with the rest of the material.

“Indignation” captures its period well, and its costumes and locations look the part of an ultra-conservative college in Ohio in 1951. Lerman is excellent as a man being pushed ever-so-slightly to his breaking point, and his chess matches with Letts are marquee-worthy showdowns.

But despite its pluses, “Indignation” often plays like a heavy handed after-school special. It’s not so much indignant as it is tedious.

(313) 222-2284




Rated R: for sexual content and some language

Running time: 110 minutes