Indignation is a film that demands for you to digest it. Feeling more like a novel than a typical movie (fitting since it’s based on a book), Indignation is a story about star-crossed young lovers that’s not quite a love story. It’s also very slow and very talky, which is apt because that mirrors freshman Marcus’ approach to life. Marcus is a wanna-be lawyer who decides to leave Newark to attend school in Ohio. And not just any school in any Ohio, this is a Christian school in 1951 Ohio, where attending chapel services is a required part of the curriculum.
That requirement does not sit well with Marcus, because he’s not only from a Jewish family, he’s also an atheist. Needless to say, he’s quite indignant about this whole thing, and he takes it so personally that you have to wonder why he thought attending this little Christian school was a good idea. Perhaps it was the only school that offered him a scholarship? Or maybe he just wanted to get as far away from the family butcher shop as possible.
Whatever brought him there, and despite his strenuous objection to the religious curriculum, he quickly warms to the school when he sees Olivia in his history class, and from there, a romance blooms. Sort of.
This is going to sound very weird coming from me, but I could have used a lot more romance than Indignation delivered. I liked watching Marcus and Olivia deal with their issues. It was a lot more real than what we usually get from romantic movies. But too often, just as it was getting interesting between the pair, we’d cut to some other aspect of Marcus’ college life, seeing him ask important-sounding questions in class or arguing with the Dean or quarrelling with his two roommates. Many of these other scenes halted the movie’s momentum without adding anything important, and as a result ended up feeling like unnecessary filler.
For anyone who has read the book (Jay?), I’d be interested in hearing whether you were more engaged by the parts of the movie that are just about Marcus, or whether they felt extraneous to you as well.
Even with that uneven momentum, there was a lot to like about Indignation and I would recommend it. I particularly liked the film’s structure and the way the story was told. Though it started slow, before too long Indignation engaged me and made me curious about where we would end up, especially once Marcus and Olivia met each other. I just wish the movie had been more focused on the two of them, but in the end, I got enough of their story to ensure that Indignation stuck in my head and made me think about fate and love and starry nights.