Starring: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Danny Burstein, Tracy Letts
Directed By: James Schamus
Plot: Marcus (Lerman) is a young jewish boy starting in college amidst the Korean war. He’s focused on his studies, trying to stay in school, because if he drops out he will be drafted. He has to deal with anti-semitism, being one of only 80 Jews in a campus of over 1500 students. Then he meets Olivia (Gadon), a complex girl who will change his life forever.
What Works: I like Logan Lerman as an actor, but I’m always hard on him because he’s just a so-so actor who keeps being thrown into the deep end of the pool. Roles like Perks Of A Wallflower are great and easy for Lerman, but films like Noah aren’t. This is something I assumed would be difficult for Lerman, but he does an above average job here. It’s a good job for him, at least, though I can’t help but wonder what this film could have been with someone like Andrew Garfield in the lead. Burstein does exceptional work as Marcus’s father. I also loved the period feel of the film, and I thought the first act was pretty solid in setting up what could have been a much better movie. Also, props for the costume and production design on this film.
What Doesn’t Work: Sarah Gadon seems to have fallen out of some weird time loop. She’s overacting her face off, but it’s in this overly breathless way that people used to actually act back in the 40’s and 50’s. She’s confusing the acting of those days with how people actually acted. It’s like watching someone do a Marilyn Monroe impersonation for two hours. It’s exhausting. I’m honestly surprised the director let her do it, and didn’t give her notes. I’m never connected to them in a relationship because of this, and the whole final 2/3rds of the film just becomes boring for me. The film tries to reel you back in with a gut punch ending, but honestly, who cares at this point? I had stopped caring.
Final Word: It looks better than it feels, and while I didn’t hate a third of the film (I actually kinda liked the first third) the rest was a bit of a mess, and Gadon lost me completely. I’ve seen other films about similar issues (like School Ties) that actually work on every level, and not just for a third of the film. Unless you’re just super curious, I’d pass on this.
Final Grade: C