My entire Philip Roth (1933) literary lexicon has been informed by a perpetual pull between spheres of ecstasy and disgust. “Portnoy’s Complaint”, “American Pastoral”, “The Human Stain”, are classics that exponentially astound with each reading; “Sabbath’s Theatre” was profoundly revolting from its commencement and is the only book I have ever returned, unfinished.
Roth has been fearless in his analytical dissection of his Jewish heritage, prurient tastes, especially the magnetic lure of the “forbidden fruit”; always semi-autobiographical, “Indignation” (2008, his 29th novel) resonates through the soft lens of hindsight; “Marcus Messner” the intelligent son of a kosher butcher and overbearing, protective mother receives a scholarship to a (fictional) Midwest College (Winesburg Ohio, an homage to Sherwood Anderson) where he encounters the sexually pioneering, luminously lovely “Olivia Hutton”, it is 1951 and the Korean War is in full bloody, bloom.
Director/writer James Schamus scores sensationally in this, his debut film; his prescient casting is flawless. Logan Lerman (“Fury”) captures Marcus’s captivating mind, his sexual naivety, his inability to connect with his Jewish roommates. Sarah Gadon gifts Olivia, a filter- less, damaged, blond savant all the hubris forbidden by Marcus’s culture. Their connection positively enthralls.
Playwright Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County”, “Killer Joe”) is the provincial, tightly-strung, waspy “Dean Caudwell” who challenges Marcus’s atheistic, ethical beliefs; their two loquacious, tendentious scenes, fraught with “indignation” are orchestrated to award-winning perfection.
Roth wrote that a “Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die”; a pivotal, succinctly wonderful moment between Marcus and his mother (Linda Emond) foreshadows the fate, the outcome of all the protagonists in provocative, insightful “Indignation”.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!