Writer Keith Gessen once said that Philip Roth wasn't a misogynist and didn't hate women because he spent all his time "thinking about fucking them." But he did concede that Roth probably thought "women were a foreign country." In James Schamus' debut feature Indignation, an adaptation of a late Roth novel of the same name, women are indeed foreign countries, and the protagonist, Marcus (Logan Lerman), thinks a lot about fucking them -- or, rather, one of them in particular. Unfortunately, he chooses the one most likely to tear him apart with her unbridled desire for male genitalia.
It's 1955, and Marcus' cousins are, one by one, sent off to Korea to get skewered on bayonets. To escape service, he enrolls at a university in Winesburg, Ohio (a nod to Sherwood Anderson), where life is square but for one promiscuous, blonde-and-blue-eyed young woman, Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon). When Olivia gives Marcus an unprovoked blowjob on their first date, he's left wondering why and how a girl would do such a thing. But, obviously, he likes it, and as he pursues Olivia further -- even though everyone calls her a "slut" -- we're told in so many words in voiceover that this is one of the first choices that leads him down a bad road.
Most often, Schamus takes the material too seriously, overexcited to show off the impeccable period production design. An excellent, hilarious 15-minute verbal sparring match between Marcus and the school's dean (Tracy Letts) is both an overindulgence -- so many of the characters need fleshing out -- but also a welcome burst of laughter in a self-serious picture.