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SALINGER (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Craig Fanning, Deborah Randall
Written and Directed by Shane Salerno
Starring Martin Sheen, Edward Norton,
John Cusack, Judd Apatow, Robert Towne,
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Wolfe,
Gore Vidal, Danny DeVito, David Milch
Weinstein Company / Rated PG-13

Shane Salerno’s documentary, Salinger, guides us through J. D. Salinger’s early life, his time during WWII, as well as brief moments in the author’s later years.

We are given a smidgen of interesting information that is spliced sloppily amidst off-putting biographer rants and low-quality reenactments.

The documentary clings to and repetitively dances around the few gems it has, turning the weighty subject matter into an unintentional low-budget satire.

The film largely centers on the creation and genius of Catcher in the Rye, and glances over several other famous works briefly. But it never expands upon why the novel has become such a right of passage for today’s youth. Instead, the film harangues Salinger’s desire for seclusion and privacy.

The continuous booming soundtracks accompanying a troubled man sitting at his typewriter on an empty stage in front a large projection of photos is ridiculous. The inter splicing of faux footage and reenactments are incredibly distracting. The few emotional stories given are stripped of their power when surrounded by the filler nonsense.

Interviewees drone on negatively about a tormented genius who withdrew and lived the best he could while forever bludgeoned by pressure to explain himself to an insufferable and undeserving public. They came off as insensitive, pompous and prying. Why does Salinger owe anyone anything? He was right in telling, “I’m not a counselor” to a crazed fan, who left his family and job to ask Salinger how to fix his life. That’s insane. I’d be pissed too.

In contrast, those who knew Salinger defended and respected his privacy. The women or young ladies that he knew, some more intimately than others, and all a bit inappropriate in today’s standards, were muses, loves, escapes, and then enemies. However, unneeded biographical commentators and random big name actors, whose addition to the film is so unnecessary it verges on the offensive, overshadowed these interesting tidbits.

Regardless of his personality, Salinger wrote awe-inspiring work. He crafted some of the most insightful and complex stories this century with discipline and focus through utmost sacrifice.

It is a shame that an author of such caliber is given this shallow and self-important treatment.

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