This is a cautious, conservative and muted adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel ‘Indignation’, written and directed by veteran producer and writer James Schamus (best known for working with filmmakers including Ang Lee and Todd Haynes). Set in the US in the early ’50s at the time of the Korean War, it tells of a young Jewish man, Marcus (Logan Lerman), the son of a New Jersey butcher and the first in his family to go to university. Once at college in Ohio, diligent, self-questioning Marcus starts an on-off romance with fragile, troubled Olivia (Sarah Gadon) and has ideological run-ins with the dean (Tracy Letts).
‘Indignation’ is an intricately designed and thoughtful film, but it lacks life, and the performances feel buttoned-down and directionless at times. It’s hard to talk about exactly why the film doesn’t fully work without giving away the big conceit of Roth’s story (and Schamus’s film). But it’s enough to say that this book offers a challenge to any filmmaker that the movie of ‘Indignation’ doesn’t quite meet. It’s a mildly interesting coming-of-age tale and reflection of mid-twentieth-century America, but nothing more.