Wry Catcher: Why J.D. Salinger?

DATELINE:   Movie Bio

REAL SALINGER Angry Salinger Wants to be Alone

Director Danny Strong joins a list of people who are violating every standard that J.D. Salinger lived by. He hated publicity and adoration of koo-koo bird fans.

You could say the new movie of Salinger’s life Rebel in the Rye is nothing short of a misnomer, however well-intended and well-done.

We are always impressed with Nicholas Hoult, who again here, gives us an American New Yorker accent and a man who lost his mind in World War II after seeing horror up close. The British actor has turned into a new nationality in his movie roles, and adds brown contact lenses to cover up those startling blue eyes that he is famous for. It is another superior performance in a growing litany of interesting films.

The movie has one big problem: Kevin Spacey. He plays the mentor and admirer of Salinger, editor and discoverer Whit Burnett, who seems almost to have a fetish when it comes to his prize pupil. Alas, Spacey’s personal history almost circumvents the movie and makes us think he was groping Nick Hoult between scenes, or that Burnett was groping Salinger. Yikes.

The producers have left Spacey’s name off the publicity because it’s such a turnoff. Not everyone has Ridley Scott’s money to simply replace Spacey with computer effects.

It’s a shame because Spacey’s presence does distract, though his performance is brilliant—and the movie proceeds on its mission to present us with a writer who loved to write, but hated his readers.

Salinger was no genius, but he had his finger on the pulse of Zen Buddhist seclusion. The attempt to turn him into his own character, Holden Caulfield, seems a bit forced. Boswell was not Sam Johnson, though he wrote about him.

The film is worth it for fans of Salinger, even if they are not wearing red hunting caps and stalking writers who hide out in New Hampshire.