HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:75
I was immediately drawn to “Indignation” the minute I heard it was a Phillip K. Roth adaptation. However that alone brings with it certain baggage and trepidation as well, for Phillip K. Roth has not always had a good adaptation from novel to film. I remember reading Portney’s Complaint back in high school (I had a very eccentric and eclectic high school literature teacher my junior year) and wanted to watch the film some years later. That was when I came to the realization that Roth was not a shoe in for changing mediums as much as some others were at the time. “Portney’s Complaint” mirrored Roth’s pointed nature and blatantly lewd satire to a T, but its direction was very obviously lost to say the least. “The Human Stain” stumbled onto Blu-ray in an Echo Bridge two pack film with “The Crossing Guard” some years back and sadly that appears to be the best quality version of that sleazily entertaining work as we’re going to get. The last adaptation of a Philip K. Roth novel came in the form of 2014’s “The Humbling”, which had an absolutely fascinating subject, but abysmal execution (despite having Pacino doing his best acting job in years) Now, with that being said, I still REALLY wanted to see “Indignation” myself and was not disappointed. There are pieces of it that seem like train of thought narrative, and make little sense until you actually watch the end of the film itself to see how everything ties back into each other.
I have to admit that I have not read “Indignation” first. A sad state of events that I couldn’t rectify with my limited time in this holiday/election season (too many responsibilities pulling at me), even though I had desperately wanted to do so in order to compare against the film. I have heard by numerous sources that “Indignation” is a near flawless work by the prolific writer, and watching the film only makes me want to see it more. Not because it is a flawless movie, but because I can see the greatness and complexities lurking beneath the surface (even though those complexities are hard pressed to be fully fleshed out in a 1 hour and 50 minute film). The film opens with an old lady reading a letter from someone long ago before whisking us back to the 1950s, during the height of the Korean War. There we meet young Marcus (Logan Lerman), a young Jewish boy who is heading off to college while the war is raging on around him. There he embarks upon a new path for his life. Marcus has lived most of his life in the sequestered realm of his traditional Jewish family (a staple for most of Roth’s works, being Jew himself) and this is the first time that he is allowed to go out and explore the world around him.
A studious boy, Marcus is adept at his studies and finds very little time for frivolity. However, he does fall under the spell of a beautiful, but strange, girl by the name of Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon). Olivia turns out to be just as odd and “different” as Marcus is, but in a completely different way. The two are drawn together, but the eccentricities and strangeness of the other drives a wedge between them that acts as the catalyst for a strange symbiotic friendship/romance. I almost don’t want to describe anything more as that is just what you NEED to know to understand the film. The rest is actually watching a train of consciousness story that just unfolds in front of you. However, I will say this. The center portion of the story is actually just the backstory you need to know for the REAL story. A story that is told in a matter of mere minutes, but speaks and acts as if it was told for the last hour and a half.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84210[/img]Watching “Indignation” gives me an insatiable urge to read the novel from Roth. There was so much depth and layering to the movie that only hints at the depths and intricacies that is so well known for fans of the rather well known author. However this layering and recognition of depth comes at a cost to the film. There honestly just isn’t ENOUGH time to really delve into all the different scenarios and relationships in the film. Too many themes and subplots are rushed through at breakneck speed to the point where you are left with the obvious conclusion that it couldn’t have been rushed so much in the book (and I was proven right after discussing my suspicions with a friend who DOES have the book). The portions where Marcus has to defend his lack of religious convictions to Dean Caudwell is the most intimate and in depth portion of the film, but strangely the oddly sexual/non sexual relationship with Olivia is rushed through at a much quicker clip. Something really feels rushed and inorganic.
While I see the downsides to the film, there are also some incredible observations made throughout. It looks into bigotry and oppression of those in a powerful setting. The eccentricities and arrogance of youth. The overbearing love of a parent who pushes their child away. How single event and angry outburst can change the very fabric of your life in one fell swoop. While some are given more cursory glances than others, each of these themes are played out in the film with varying results. While not every single one is given the time needed to fully flesh out the themes (to do so would require more than double the run time), there are enough elements of genius within the film to give some incredible enjoyment.
Rated R for sexual content and some language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84218[/img]“Indignation” sports a rich and vibrant looking period piece 1.85:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray that really shines most of the time. The period piece colors are warm and rich with yellows, tweed browns and brightly lit white levels. Bringing us back to the 50s with ease it keeps us there with strong details that shows everything to the naked eye. The tweed thread in rough overcoats, the slight razor burn on youthful faces, or the light layer of lipstick on a pretty girl’s mouth. Black levels are generally strong, but I do have to say that I noticed a teensy bit of crush here and there. The biggest problem in the black level is the only reason I’m rating this a 4/5 instead of a 4.5/5. That is the amount of shadow detail that gets lost in murky tones during many of the darker sequences. I wouldn’t say it’s washed out as the contrast levels and white levels seem to be well balanced, but everything seems to get rather murky instead of creating deeply defined and accurate shadows. Overall it’s a great looking image with just a few quirks in the black department.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84226[/img]I already knew what type of sound design “Indignation” would enjoy going in and the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track did not disappoint in the slightest. The mix is very intimate and nuanced, but one that doesn’t rely on heavy sound effects or the like. Dialog is the main focus of the track and said dialog is replicated masterfully. Vocals are crisp and cleanly intelligible and the limited effects in the front soundstage are blended well and do not overpower the dialog. There are some mild ambient effects in the background, but none so ostentatious as to take away from the talking that dominates the picture. Mostly just a few sounds of the score coming through or the sound of a car door slamming, or the sounds of a gunshot popping during the opening and closing portions of the film. The track is simple, but not in a negative way. Everything that is asked of it, the 5.1 mix does with ample success.
• "Timeless: Connecting the Past to the Present" Featurette
• "Perceptions: Bringing Philip Roth to the Screen" Featurette
“Indignation” is a flawed work of genius. A Dichotomy that keeps it from being a truly great movie due to the difficulty of translating the book from page to film, but also shows the incredible intelligence of the author despite said flaws. I really enjoyed the film more than I expected to, and have to admit that this is one of the better adaptations from Roth’s work in quite some time. Themes that affect each and every one of us flow through the movie and some that may not apply to any of us as well. Audio is great and while the video suffers from some black level issues, it is more than satisfactory for a modern release. My only complaint is the usual lack of extras. Worth at least a watch.
Starring: Sarah Gadon, Logan Lerman, Tracy Letts
Directed by: James Schamus
Written by: Philip Roth (Novel), James Schamus (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 110 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 8th, 2016
Buy Indignation On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
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