Indignation

For F*** Magazine

INDIGNATION 

Director : James Schamus
Cast : Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Danny Burstein, Linda Emond, Sonny Cottler, Ben Rosenfield, Phillip Ettinger
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 1 hr 51 mins
Opens : 18 August 2016
Rating : NC-16 (Some Sexual Scenes)

Indignation posterPhilip Roth is considered a pre-eminent American writer, whose work centres around the Jewish-American experience. Indignation, adapted from Roth’s novel of the same name, revolves around Marcus Messner (Lerman), a Jewish college student. The son of kosher butcher Max (Burstein) and Esther (Emond), Marcus is exempted from being drafted to serve in the Korean War because he is going to college. Leaving his hometown of Newark, New Jersey for Winesburg College in Ohio, he is immediately smitten with the beguiling Olivia Hutton (Gadon), who comes from a wealthy family but who has had a troubled upbringing. After a disagreement with his roommates Bertram Flusser (Rosenfield) and Ron Foxman (Ettinger), Marcus requests a transfer to a different dorm room. When the school’s dean Hawes Caudwell (Letts) requests to see Marcus, the two butt heads, Marcus taking issue with the mandatory chapel attendance. Departing from his Jewish roots and embracing atheism, Marcus must come to terms with his own religious views as he experiences a sexual awakening.

Indignation Sarah Gadon and Logan Lerman 1

Indignation marks the directorial debut of James Schamus, a veteran producer and screenwriter who is an oft-collaborator of Ang Lee. Roth himself hails from Newark and attended college in the 50s, Indignation’s semi-autobiographical elements making it a personal project for the author. As a coming-of-age period piece, Indignation approaches the fairly common themes of falling in love and questioning the beliefs with which one was brought up with considerable poise. Indignation is measured in its pace and many of the shots are symmetrically framed, visually reinforcing the juxtaposition of the fictional college’s stuffy atmosphere and the frank sexuality that is displayed. There’s a sprinkling of drol humour in just the right doses throughout the predominantly sombre piece. However, the film does often come off as distant, and the use of voiceovers in an effort to preserve some of Roth’s prose is occasionally awkward.

Indignation Logan Lerman 1

Lerman leverages his boy-next-door charm for all it’s worth in Indignation, getting to bust some heretofore unseen dramatic chops. It’s a mostly quiet performance, and Lerman is able to find the core of a character who is intelligent, but doesn’t have everything figured out. The character of Marcus isn’t one who questions authority because it’s cool to rebel, and the scenes between Lerman and Letts are masterfully acted. Letts can play the prickly, unlikeable authority figure in his sleep, yet Dean Caudwell isn’t a cartoon villain, and it is entertaining to see how the confrontation starts out relatively polite, and becomes heated while stopping short of being wildly uncivil.

Indignation Tracy Letts

While Gadon’s delivery is a little stilted, she’s still able to create a compelling, magnetic figure in the form of Olivia. Here impeccably put-together exterior, comprising 50s frocks and topped with soft blonde curls, belie a damaged soul. Yet, Olivia doesn’t function as a broken woman whom the protagonist feels is duty-bound to put back together. In all the interactions between Marcus and Olivia, one gets the sense that there’s raw passion lurking beneath a façade of politeness and conformity. Gadon has yet to hit to big time, but a few more roles like this one might be just what it takes.

Indignation Sarah Gadon
Both Burstein and Emond fit the expectations of Jewish parents of that era, and it’s easy to see why Marcus longs to get out from under their thumbs, even if all the haranguing ultimately comes from a place of love. While there are impactful moments in Indignation, this reviewer felt like he couldn’t leap all the way in. The handsomeness of the piece sometimes works against it, making the story seem stodgier than it really is. Its abrupt conclusion is also as frustrating as it is intriguing.

Summary: Logan Lerman gets a platform to shine, but Indignation could use a little more urgency in getting audiences invested in its protagonist’s struggles.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Fury

For F*** Magazine

FURY

Director : David Ayer
Cast : Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña, Xavier Samuel, Jason Isaacs, Scott Eastwood
Genre : War/Action
Opens : 22 October 2014
Rating : NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Run time: 134 mins
The 2nd Armoured Division was hell on wheels to any Nazis who found themselves in their path. This film, set in April 1945 as the Second World War draws to a close, tells of the fictional five-man crew of a M4A3 Sherman tank christened “Fury”. US Army Staff Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) leads the crew, consisting of Boyd “Bible” Swan (LaBeouf), Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Bernthal), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Peña) and rookie Norman “Cobb” Ellison (Lerman). A typist clerk who’s never been on the battlefield, Norman struggles to confront the horrors of war head-on as he repeatedly clashes with the men who occupy the Fury with him. Facing off against the better-equipped Nazis, the crew of the Fury must make a heroic last stand behind enemy lines.
            Writer-director David Ayer’s films have not been particularly pleasant, from gritty cop thrillers like Street Kings and End of Watch to the nasty Schwarzenegger-starring Sabotageearlier this year. War is never pleasant and Ayer brings a good deal of nastiness to the proceedings. Fury’s depiction of World War II is unflinching in its violence and brutality, containing many shocking moments of heads – belonging to soldiers and civilians alike – being blasted open. On one hand, this graphic approach adds to the film’s believability and makes it clear to the audience that Ayer is not interested in presenting a sanitized, romanticised view of this period of history. On the other, it often feels exploitative, that Ayer is revelling in this carnage and that the “war is hell” message is secondary to bullet hits and blood splatter.

            “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent,” Pitt’s Wardaddy says pithily. Ayer has achieved a grimy, bloody realism befitting the historical but at the same time, it can’t help but feel like a wholly cynical affair. In this day and age, Americans and others around the world have grown jaded with and tired of war. Ayer’s take on the Second World War is bereft of nostalgia or sentimentality, but this works against it. Some audiences might squirm at the film’s depiction of “the greatest generation” taking sadistic glee in slaughtering German troops; others might just cheer along. There are attempts in Fury to tackle ethical quandaries and questions of faith but these moments are presented with far less conviction than those involving flying body parts.


            Even though the soldiers manning the Fury are far from likeable, the performances are solid, with Brad Pitt leading the charge. Wardaddy, as his nickname suggests, is a father to his men, but he also has a cruel streak and isn’t about to mollycoddle anyone. Pitt is sufficiently believable, apart from his constantly perfectly-coiffed hairdo. Bernthal’s Grady is the resident jerk of the crew and he does get on the nerves, though that’s how the part was written. Shia LaBeouf is surprisingly less annoying than this reviewer expected and his scripture-quoting Boyd “Bible” Swan, dedicated to his faith while raking up the body count, is not quite the caricature he should’ve been. Logan Lerman, sometimes characterised as a handsome but boring young actor, is the standout of the cast for this reviewer. Yes, Norman is the audience surrogate character, the fresh-faced new kid yet to be tainted by the horrors of war – we’ve all seen that one before. However, Lerman’s conviction in the part, combined with how out of place he looks in that environment, gives the film its few moments of genuine heart-rending emotion amidst the barrage of gunfire and exploding grenades.


            Perhaps we’re wrong – perhaps we should be glad that a World War II film pulls no punches and isn’t naïvely jingoistic. But it is too much to ask for a film of this genre to highlight nobility and honour, bring a little of the best of humanity to the forefront, feel respectful? There have been several masterfully-made war films which are violent and bloody but also showcase the dignity and heroism of their subjects – Saving Private Ryan comes to mind. Unfortunately, David Ayer seems to have too much fun blowing bodies to bits to present a sombre, well thought-out historical portrait.


Summary: Those looking for bloody, brutal WWII violence will be satisfied; those looking for respect and dignity to balance that out will not.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong