Written and Directed by Danny Strong
Based on the book “J.D. Salinger: A Life” by Kenneth Slawenski
Any story about J.D. Salinger, I fear will always start with The Catcher in the Rye, still hailed as one of the most influential novels to ever be published. Many high school and college English classes still list it as required reading. I read The Catcher in Rye when I was in college, ironically enough for one of my film classes. As a group project we decided to produce a scene from the novel. Which… I’m pretty sure J.D. Salinger would have hated, but I’m pretty sure he would not have been too fond of me to begin with so… what can you do?
The film opens with a young Jerry Salinger (Nicholas Holt) discovering his love of writing and finding a mentor in Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey). After facing many rejections, Jerry finally begins to find some success as a writer before he is drafted into into the second world war. During his time in the military he continued to write and according to the film began what would eventually become The Catcher in the Rye. The film follows him through the publishing of his novel and well into his later life as the reclusive writer he would become.
This was going to be a difficult movie to make. I’m really not sure if it was possible to make a film that would please the fans and the average movie goer. For one, J.D. Salinger hated movies. He never wanted The Catcher in the Rye made into a movie and I’m pretty sure he’d never want one made of his life. From what I know about J.D. Salinger, I get the feeling he would have wanted to tell his own story and in his own unique voice.
I found it to be a solid film. I enjoyed it and I have recommend it to friends to watch. Of course, neither me nor my friends are huge Salinger fans so perhaps that would be why I wasn’t offended by this conventional and sometimes sentimental biopic.
I enjoyed the performances of Kevin Spacey and Nicholas Holt (and not just because Nicholas Holt looks good when he’s brooding in 1940’s dress). As I said earlier, I knew next to nothing about J.D. Salinger and therefor enjoyed learning of the different moments in his life which would later shape his work.
I feel like people wanted a film that was mind blowing, something with Salinger’s whit, sarcasm and his unique voice. That’s something that no one would have been able to replicate. For the casual reader of The Catcher in the Rye or as a casual movie fans then you’ll probably enjoy this film as a nice Friday night popcorn flick.