Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It's a Movie, No, It's a Play, No, It's a Movie

A one word title of a movie.  And I don't understand what it means.   Okay, I know the definition of the word but I'm totally addled by how it pertains to this film.

Indeed, that's the not only perplexing notion I have after seeing "Indignation."   You know how there are some Broadway plays that get turned into movies and they don't work when transferred.   Well, just the opposite is in play here.   Because, while it works well as a drama on the big screen, "Indignation" as adapted from a novel by Philip Roth, would be even better as a live theater drama.   The script is built perfectly for that.

As this story unfolds, there are about five scenes that are nothing but two talking heads for perhaps ten minutes of dialogue.  Oh, don't get me wrong. They are superbly acted but they appear to be out of another genre.   The interplay is Broadway stage-worthy.    In a movie going day where attention spans are about as long as the wingspan of a flea, it is amazing to see these really deep and long scenes in "Indignation."

The story is really nothing new, but it still seems amazingly fresh.   Marcus is a college freshman, a Jew from Newark, New Jersey where his overbearing father runs a butcher shop circa 1951.   Marcus gets a scholarship to a very white bread Ohio university...the kind of institution where all students, regardless of religion, are required to go to Christian chapel forty times a year. Let's face it.   You have a pretty good idea of how this is going to play out.   But, still, you're surprised.

Part of the intrigue comes from a relationship Marcus develops with Olivia, as mainstream as they come or so it appears.   Their liaisons turn out to be very chaste except she loves to give him blow jobs and hand jobs.   Yes, I just wrote that.   Eventually, you discover Olivia's issues and you pretty much know what they will be.   But, still, you're surprised.

Marcus runs afoul of the college's overbearing dean who delights in challenging Marcus on his religious beliefs and attitudes.   Truly, the set piece of this drama is a very simple scene in the dean's office where the two go at it.   The exchange goes on for almost 15 minutes and just might be the more intense conversation you have heard.   It makes you uncomfortable and you squirm in your seat.   And I think that's the goal of it all.

The acting in "Indignation" is spot-on, led by Logan Lerman as Marcus.   Again, you know where the tale is going, but you're still amazed when you arrive there. That's largely because the ending is so out-of-left field and incredibly sad.   But, when you think about the film's prologue which you think is one thing and realize that the epilogue is really the prologue which you didn't understand, you realize just how expert these film makers are.

"Indignation" might not be everybody's cup of tea, but it certainly was a film that held my interest.   Even if I didn't understand the title.

Or believe that it would be even better as a two-act play at the Morosco Theater in New York.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Sausage pizza at Blaze Pizza.

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