Director: (2016) BBFC cert: 15
This head bangingly dull melodrama is a poor advert for author Phillip Roth from whose novel it’s adapted. The flat lead performances, self-obsessed characters and clunky direction make for a very testing experience.
As is so often the case in literary adaptions, the presence of a voice over is an early indicator of the ineffective transition from page to screen which follows.
Marcus is a working-class Jewish student who dodges the 1951 Korean war army draft by enrolling in a prestigious Ohio college. Refusing to socialise with his peers he obsesses over the beautiful Olivia, an outwardly confident soul from a wealthy family. Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon are a handsome couple but can’t find a way to make their characters sympathetic.
The only memorable scene is a lengthy interrogation by the Dean. This is a character whom we’re supposed to reject for his persecution of Marcus, but instead embrace for his patience, charm and humour. It’s an enjoyably human performance by Tracy Letts.
The cyclical script explores how society applies brutal punishments to those who challenge conformity. After enduring two hours of this wearying philosophising, I was was more than justified in my own indignation.