Tag Archives: Logan Lerman

Ms. Jackson, If You’re Nasty


by Hope Madden

I’m not sure which thrilled me more, that Elisabeth Moss was set to portray the great Shirley Jackson, or that Josephine Decker was slated to direct.

If you’re not familiar with Decker, give yourself the gift of her 2014 minor miracle Thou Wast Mild and Lovely. Decker’s languid style seduces you, keeps you from pulling away from her films’ underlying tensions, darkness, sickness. She specializes in that headspace that mixes the story as it is and the story as it’s told, which makes her a fitting guide for Susan Scarf Merrell’s fictionalized account of this slice of Jackson’s life.

Which brings us to Moss, quickly ascending the ranks of “best actors of our generation” into the rarified air of “genius.” Moss has proven time and again that she can inhabit any character with a fearlessness that allows her to disappear and the character to emerge, fully human. Such is the case with the enigmatic, damaged and brilliant Jackson.

Shirley takes us into the period where the already reclusive writer begins work on her novel Hangsaman

This stretch of time coincides with the arrival of some help for Jackson’s husband Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg). The couple will be opening their home to Stanley’s new teaching assistant (Logan Lerman), and his pregnant wife, Rose (Odessa Young).

The film’s plot follows Jackson’s relationship with Rose, which develops in tandem with her newest manuscript. The friendship unveils unkind truths about power, sexual politics and other uglinesses that Jackson always mined so formidably in her creepiest work.

Decker manipulates the pacing, melancholy and sensuality of her tale beautifully, drawing a stirring performance from Young. But my god, what she gets from Moss and Stuhlbarg.

To witness two such remarkable talents sparring like this, aided by a biting script that offers them ample opportunity to wade into the sickness and dysfunction of this marriage—it’s breathtaking.

The result is dark and unseemly, appropriately angry and gorgeously told—fitting tribute to the author.

Pretty Dress, Ugly Girl


by Cat McAlpine

I recently attended a play that was full of young, good looking, and extremely talented actors. Unfortunately, the play wasn’t any good. Something about it lacked cohesion. Its aspirations were too high. It was entirely too self-aware. After the show, I approached my friend to let him know his performance had been marvelous, but truthfully … He nodded in grim agreement, “It’s a pretty dress on an ugly girl.”

That is exactly how I would describe Indignation.

Indignation takes place in 1951, following young Marcus (Logan Lerman) who, Jewish in upbringing but not in faith, attends his freshman year at a small college in Ohio. College is a safe haven during a time in which boys not enrolled in school are drafted for the Korean War. Tumultuous feelings bubble to the surface and then are repressed again.

Director and writer James Schamus’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel looks pretty enough. The period setting is well done, all moody browns and sweaters, the perfect backdrop for a coming-of-age tale mired in societal repression.

The acting is marvelous across the board, but there’s no denying that Lerman is the star, deftly handling lengthy monologues with the righteous assuredness of youth. The entire film, in fact, is rife with fantastic monologues, expertly handled. Pretty dress, ugly girl.

The core of the film is meant to hinge off of Marcus and Olivia Hutton’s (Sarah Gadon) sexual tension, taken from each other too soon. The reality is that Olivia is naught more than another manic pixie dream girl. Her key characteristics are emotional damage, constantly telling Marcus how special he is, and giving out sexual favors without any expectation of them being returned.

Lerman and Gadon are both believable in their roles but not with each other. The most they achieve is a shocked wonderment at being in the same room together. There’s never any true connection, no passion, and certainly no love. When Marcus’s mother tells him to stop seeing such an unhinged girl … he does.

An ending meant to be tragic and epic seems almost random and disjointed. The horrors of the Korean War have felt like a threat instead of a promise, caricatured by strange funeral chit chat and offhanded remarks.

People will argue that this is a marvelous film because it checks all the boxes of what we consider “great”. Period piece. Coming of age. A misunderstood intellectual. Love story. War. The acting is good. The cinematography standard. There’s a moody score. This all amounts to pretty dresses.

Ultimately, the tale simply isn’t interesting. The women are all frail, the men are all bullies. No one is very likeable. As hard as Indignation tries to pit sex and death against the cosmos, it simply doesn’t. Depression isn’t exotic. Divorce isn’t shocking. A coming of age story where the lead is technically still a virgin doesn’t seem scandalous. Looking on from 2016, the 1950s are about as thrilling as their color palate. Dull brown.



Mr. Furyous



by George Wolf

“See that? That’s an entire city on fire.”

It is World War II, and grizzled combat vet Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is teaching scared rookie Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) about the horrors of battle.

Fury is hardly the first movie to use a naive soldier as an extension of the audience, and that metaphor is just one of the familiar devices the film leans on to craft a competent, if not exactly groundbreaking, drama of war.

Collier leads a 5-man Sherman Tank crew which also includes “Bible” (Shia LeBeouf),  “Gordo” (Michael Pena) and “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal). Deep inside Germany, their combat prowess earns the team a mission with mighty long odds. On their own, they must cut off an entire Nazi regiment before it reaches a defenseless Allied supply station.

Writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch) presents powerful battle scenes, frequently gripping and bursting with ugly brutality. Less successful are Ayers’s attempts at the humanity the story needs to cut deeper.

The confines of the tank are a good start, as we feel a bond with the five men simply from the claustrophobic closeups. But as the combat scenes stack up, the character development is reduced to quick sketches we’ve seen before.

The scripture-quoting marksman (Saving Private Ryan), the greenhorn not meant for the battlefield (Full Metal Jacket) and the facially scarred taskmaster (Platoon) are all here, instantly familiar and throwing roadblocks into Fury‘s attempt to reach higher ground.

Pitt is fantastic in the lead, with solid support from all his co-stars. Lerman’s effective naïveté, when thrown beside four eager members of an actual killing machine, creates a stark moral ambiguity that lingers, even if Norman’s transformation from “boy to man” is a bit lacking in subtlety.

Same goes for turning “Wardaddy” into a mythic G.I. Superjoe. Pitt has the chops that could have delivered on the chance to peek inside his character’s psyche, but it doesn’t come.

Instead, though the film’s final standoff definitely delivers the tension, Fury can’t go out in the blaze of glory it aimed for.