“If they made a movie, Holden wouldn't like it,” Martin Sheen opines deep into the new documentary Salinger. He's speaking of the possibility of a film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye, but he could be describing this one.
Despite a few killer anecdotes from people who met intensely private author J.D. Salinger, and a couple new photographs, Shane Salerno's film is two bombastic, bullshit-packed hours of proof that Salinger and Caulfield were right to hide out from Hollywood. Ever wanted to see an actor typing up “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” on the stage of some movie palace while World War II footage flickers on the screen behind him? Or thought that the ideal way to demonstrate the popularity of The Catcher in the Rye would be a montage of young folks thrusting the book at the camera? They seem to be shouting, “Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?”
I take no issue with the film's argument: Salinger was something of a crank, a creep and a genius, wrecked by the war and disgusted by our culture. Eventually, shaken by his fame, he lit out for the hinterlands, refusing to publish after 1965 — and ensuring his legacy. He wrote in a bunker, seems to have been neglectful of his wife and kids, and couldn't resist pen-palling much younger women, some of whom he hooked up with.
It's no surprise when a title card explains that The Catcher in the Rye is narrated by a young man named Holden Caulfield. That's what this movie is — a Salinger doc for people who can't get through The Catcher in the Rye. —Alan Scherstuhl
SALINGER | Directed by Shane Salerno | The Weinstein Company | Landmark, ArcLight Hollywood