Set in the 1950s, Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) works in his Father’s kosher butcher shop and plans to go to college, partly because he is an intelligent individual, partly to ensure he doesn’t join the war in Korea. The movie starts by showing us an elderly lady in a nursing home then in a very odd fashion, we cut to a fighter in the Korean war, one of Marcus’ friends, who we see get killed.
Following his friend’s death, Marcus’ Father is worried about him probably too much, resulting in arguments and the relationship between the Father and Son breaking down. When Marcus moves out to a college in Ohio to join the class of 1955, he is the model student, he works hard and stays focussed, he also falls in love with (and borderline stalks) Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) where we see their relationship develop.
This is a coming of age story where we are bought into the complexities of Olivia and Marcus’ lives before and during the time in which they knew each other. We see the difficulties of a man who was bought up Jewish, at the time, holding no religion, questioning the morals of having to sit in a Christian church once a week. At one point we see an impressive scene between Marcus and the college dean (Tracy Letts), an argument about invasion of privacy, religious views and the relationship Marcus has with his family.
This impressive scene was unfortunately one of the few good scenes, the story felt as though it was put together with prit-stick and drawn with crayons, it felt messy and didn’t have a good flow to it. A prime example of this is the opening and closing moments, jumping from old lady in a nursing home to Korean War to 1950s America, it didn’t mesh together nicely.
The acting was good, Lerman and Gadon, both young actors with refreshing enthusiasm – I can see them going far in their acting careers. I can see where writer, director and producer, James Schamus, was trying to go with this story, showing how, over time, there have been changes with sexual repression and religious openness, but in my view, it wasn’t very well presented and was rather disappointing for a story that had so much potential.