After watching a film adaptation of a book and if the film makes one want to go out to read the book, it generally means that either the film was good or had squandered its potential. And in this case, thankfully it was the former, especially since it was a Philip Roth adaptation.
First time director James Schamus also wrote the screenplay and he has elegantly presented the 50s onto the big screen. An era where American idealism was at war and the sexual revolution was at its precipice, Roth/Schamus' flawed protagonist comes of age as he navigates the complicated terrain of sexual awakening/exploration and collegiate life. We follow his journey and explored what is the meaning of indignation. Is indignation a sign of principled behaviour? Or a show of weakness?
Logan Lerman matured as an actor, from his days as Percy Jackson to being a Wallflower, however he still has a distance to go. He may be the anchor of the film, but he lacked the depth and conviction of the role and only managed to dig superficially to re-create Roth's complex, and complicated, Marcus Messner.
The luminous Sarah Gadon, on the other hand, lit up the screen, but beyond her beauty, Gadon managed to subtly capture the flurry of complex emotions that make up her fractured character.
Unfortunately, Gadon and Lerman lacked chemistry to effectively sell their love story. And especially so after having seen Gadon's beautiful chemistry with James Franco in 11.22.63.
However, the highlights were two scenes by two veterans actors: Tracy Letts and Linda Emond.
Both scenes, tonally opposite, were opposite Lerman, and they brought out the best in him. I would like to know how much of the dialogue were by Schamus and how much were Roth's words. Powerful words.
The score by Jay Wadley was reminiscent of early Philip Glass and Alexandre Desplat.
A beautifully made film that was well-acted and directed. It was a pity though that Schamus did not flesh out the supporting characters more and focused so intently on Lerman's character.That left the film rather flat at times and also led to a less effective, not ineffective, finale.