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Indignation (2016)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/8/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/28/2016

According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, "Beginning or Ending School" ranks pretty far down on their list. If we are lumping going to college into this category, then I have to strongly disagree. For many young adults, going to college is a huge change and can be very stressful as you are in a new place with new people and most likely facing the most rigorous school work that you've ever seen. Why else does depression, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse run rampant in this population? No offense to Holmes and Rahe, but beginning school is extraordinarily stressful and it's no wonder that this life change is chronicled in movies like Indignation.

The year is 1951 and the Korean War is in full swing. Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) of Newark has been able to avoid this by being accepted to a college in Ohio. The transition to college life is a tough one for Marcus, as it's so different from the world which he has known. Despite the fact that he's placed with two Jewish roommates and invited to join the Jewish fraternity, Marcus decides to keep to himself and focus on his studies. The one distraction which he encounters is Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), an attractive coed. They go on one date, and Marcus is shocked by how forward she is. Following this, Marcus has a heated debate with Dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts), which only increases his sense of isolation. Will Marcus be able to survive his freshman year?

Again, going to college is rife with challenges and adjustments, and Indignation hits on many of the big ones -- roommates, studies, relationships, and attempting to find ones place. Based on a novel by Philip Roth, the movie presents a very frank look at what it's like to be away from home for the first time. While this is a struggle for most students, it was especially tough for Marcus, as he grew up as an only child to very protective parents in a predominantly Jewish community. College was his first true introduction to the diversity of the real world.

Obviously, Indignation takes many pages from real life and will certainly ring true, in some ways, to anyone who has gone to college, or moved into a new situation. So, this is truly a "slice of life" movie. But, this is where Indignation runs into problems. The film catalogs Marcus' progress through his freshman year, but an actual story never materializes. What we get is very episodic and disjointed. The movie moves from scene-to-scene showing Marcus' struggles and setbacks, forming more of a checklist than a narrative. Throughout this, we expect to watch Marcus grow and change, but we don't. We simply watch him go from thing-to-thing remaining moody and distant. This equates to an unlikable character. Thus, it's difficult to feel for Marcus. We don't necessarily blame him for his situation, but, we also don't see him doing anything to better it. Indignation also suffers from some sloppy pacing during the finale. After 105-minutes of slowly illustrating Marcus' plight, the story comes to a shocking close in a matter of moments. Not only is this jarring, but it comes across as somewhat far-fetched as well.

So, with Indignation, we have a film which presents some universal truths, some awkward sexual moments, and an abrupt ending. Logan Lerman proved himself to be capable of lighter fare in the Percy Jackson movies, but he's notably flat here. However, all of these things go out the window in the scene in which Marcus squares off with Dean Caudwell. This extended scene is the true highlight of the movie as the seemingly innocuous face-to-face to check on Marcus’ well-being turns into a toe-to-toe stand-off. If some of the earlier moments in the movie made you uncomfortable, you will be truly squirming as the argument escalates. Lerman and Letts show off some great acting here and the emotional power of this scene will make you wonder what went wrong with the rest of the film. Indignation makes some great points and contains one knock-out scene, but the whole package is a disappointment.

Indignation is real casual about hospital-based PDA on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The picture is a bit dark at times, but the colors look natural and true. The image is never soft, showing off good detail and the depth is fine. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.1 Mbps. For the most part, this is a fairly docile track, reflecting the dramatic nature of the film. The chapel scenes do bring us some mild stereo and surround effects. The opening and closing shots produce mild subwoofer effects.

The Indignation Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. "Timeless: Connecting the Past to the Present" (6 minutes) is sort of a scattershot featurette, as it contains clips from the movie and comments from the actors and Writer/Director James Schamus, who generally talk about how things were different in the 50s. "Perceptions: Bringing Philip Roth to the Screen" (7 minutes) is more of a discussion about the characters and the story and what it took to bring these to life.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long