Director: James Schamus
Year Released: 2016
Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), the son of a (kosher) butcher, leaves his Newark, New Jersey home to study at (fictitious) Winesburg College (in Ohio) where he gets involved with damaged but sweet Olivia (Sarah Gadon) and has the best first date ever, has a fight with his roommates and eventually a sour encounter with the Dean (playwright Tracy Letts). Roth has historically not been translatable to the screen - he's a marvelous novelist and storyteller, but Hollywood's never been quite sure how to treat the material - and the same situation applies here: Marcus and Olivia's relationship doesn't take hold because either the characters or the performers are too stiff and unnatural (I'm not sure which but I'm leaning towards the latter), Marcus is a churlish kid who's challenging to empathize with and the protracted verbal duel with Dean Caudwell feels more like a scene from a play than a moment that flows naturally with the material. Trust a fan: Roth's eloquent bile is best appreciated on paper (so get to a library!).