Josephine Deckler’s 2018 film ‘Madeleine Madeleine’ was critically lauded, but for me it was total dreck. Or maybe I just don’t ‘get’ her art? This is the reason why I have dragged my feet into seeing her new film ‘Shirley,’ even though, again, the film has gotten numerous raves. But I finally gave in, and you know what? I kind of get Decker’s work a little bit more. Do I like it? Not as much as others, but it is certainly better for me than ‘MM.’
Maybe because this has a formidable dream cast, led by Elizabeth Moss, who is fantastic as Shirley Jackson. Matching her scene for scene is Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays her husband Stnley Hyman. This eccentric couple, and that is putting it mildly, has started to host a young couple in their house, and the film veer towards something akin to Jackson’s gothic stories. It is sometimes baffling, and I gotta admit at times hard to take, but it is definitely interesting, And the authentic performances will certainly make you believe everything. The added extra for me is seeing Logan Lerman, who is one of my favorite actors, though he doesn’t really have much to do here. Visually the film is a treat, and Decker infuses it with a lot of style. All in all it’s more an interesting watch for me than one that emotionally touched me, but that’s probably more my taste than anything else. I admire it, though.
The dictionary defines indignation as “anger and annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment,” and I guess based on Pilip Roth’s book which is teh source of this film (since I have not read it) this stems from the anti-semitism culture still prevalent in 1951 America. ‘Indignation,’ the film is set during these times, and is about Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) who ‘escapes’ being drafted into the Korean War as he goes into college at fictional Winesberg.
Marcus is a strong character with ideas of his own. While said ideas may be normal in today’s times, they were revolutionary back then – he professes to being an Atheist, and has specific ideas about government and organized religion. Logan Lerman plays him brilliantly – this young man is intelligent but cautious, wary of said indignation. Lerman is a study of subtle bragaddocio and wide-eyed innocence. He feels he knows better, but also aware of his naiveté. The latter comes up when he meets Olicia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) a woman with more experienced darkness. He is scared and fascinated by her. He falls in love.
This love stays with him, and with us as we watch his world implode, and the story spins to a mediation about mortality. This film almost reads like a play – scenes are longer but seems stilted at times. There’s a great scene between Lerman and Tracy Letts (who plays his dean) which show both personalities as each play with each character’s prejudices, ideologies, and the dance is mesmerizing. This is a quiet film – it made me think about it even as I finished it. Here I am now, hours later, and feel like I missed some points. I bet if I watched it again I will discover things I hadn’t noticed first time ’round.