A stellar turn from Lerman and good chemistry makes this uneven coming of age drama one to watch.
In 1951, Marcus (Logan Lerman), a working-class Jewish student from New Jersey, attends a small Ohio college, where he struggles with sexual repression and cultural disaffection, amid the ongoing Korean War.
I’m not familiar with Philip Roth’s works so I can’t make comparisons on the film’s adaptation of his 29th novel BUT it was a well acted, if tragically patchy affair.
This was a perfect transition for the Percy Jackson star. Proving that he will be one to watch in the future. I know some of you will be more familiar with Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (A film I have yet to watch) BUT I felt his character was too passive to make an impression in Fury.
However, he was a charismatic lead that carried the story when the pace tragically dragged. Context is crucial when approaching this piece. The backdrop of the Korean War became a tipping point for a clash in values and (most importantly) beliefs.
We follow Marcus as he escapes the call to war and the overbearing shadow of his overanxious father (Danny Burstein – Boardwalk Empire). A man troubled by the turn in tide and loss of life.
I did find myself fidgeting a little through all the intellectual academia anecdotes as Marcus tries to shy away from his heritage. BUT by doing so; he is soon under the watchful eye of a prospective Jewish fraternity and designated to a dorm with the only Jews on campus. Well, according to his high strung room mate Bertram Flusser anyway.
Ben Rosenfield (Irrational Man) was highly entertaining as Flusser. Outspoken and he doesn’t care who knows. Blaring classical music to the masses and sharing his views whether you want to hear them or NOT.
“There were no girls like Olivia Hutton back in Newark”.
BUT beneath all the (endless) Bertrand Russell (A renowned social critic. Yeah. I had to do some research after viewing) quotations and heated societal debates, there was still a boy meets girl love story at its core.
The lovely Sarah Gadon (Stephen King’s 11.22.63) delivered an engaging performance as the mysterious Olivia. The girl that would trigger Marcus’ sexual awakening in an age of repression. A much needed presence.
The pair had great chemistry and I was happy to persevere as their romance blossomed. Her upfront approach in sex was a complete culture shock for the timid Marcus. Putting it down to her parents’ divorce.
However as we got to watch their relationship grow, the pair soon opened up and we got a better insight into Olivia’s past. Punished with a “reputation” for her promiscuity. A reputation that threatened to cause a rift between Marcus’ friends and family.
Tracey Letts (Homeland) was excellent as the scrupulous Dean Caudwell. His casual conversations nothing more than preaching. Enforcing his values on Marcus. Believing the boy to have “lost his way”. Interrogating him on the exact details of his familiarity with Olivia and even his own beliefs.
Right down to why he didn’t put down on his application that his father was a kosher butcher? A ploy to hide his religion? Every question suggesting an ulterior motive. Making assumptions about the headstrong protagonist. The heated exchanges were quite riveting to watch and really showed Lerman’s potential with James Schamus’ dialogue coming to life.
Indignation certainly made an interesting contrast to the present day. Religion, divorce and sexual expression are still rife BUT have thankfully shown a lot more progression and acceptance compared to the fifties.
BUT it was all a little too “talky talky” for my liking. The premise felt like something more suitable for a TV movie or (even better) as a theatrical performance.
It didn’t help that when things seemed to reach boiling point with Marcus having to make a decision, it ended so abruptly and on such a bleak note that I was left feeling a little disappointed.
Despite some great performances from some underrated actors, I fear this arduous affair may get lost in the ranks.