The new documentary on J.D. Salinger is scheduled to open in Seattle this Friday, with local critics scheduled to get a look at the film at a press screening tomorrow, but the screening's been abruptly cancelled. Maybe this is all in the service of "not spoiling the secrets!," but according to almost every critic who's seen it, the biggest "secret" about Salinger is that it stinks.
Organized like a cheap reality show that excitedly rips the lid off of the mysteries of ancient alien civilizations, padded with hilariously embarrassing re-enactments (Salinger is writing on a stage, so frustrated with all the phonies! Salinger is meeting with literary agents, so frustrated with rejection! Salinger walks in the woods and carries a log, so frustrated with logs!) and heightened into a fake-suspense frenzy with a histrionic score, it's a movie that tells you very little a decently-written biography couldn't (and already has, for that matter).
[W]hat’s staggering about Salinger is how completely it misunderstands—or more often, simply ignores—what made its subject matter, well, matter. Salerno (and his interviewees, at least as he edits them) seems obsessed with the figure of the writer as celebrity, as recluse, as reluctant guru, and—in a creepy section on Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley Jr.’s Catcher in the Rye fixations—as supposed inciter to acts of violence. But there’s virtually no attention paid to Salinger’s language, the finely wrought prose and keen ear for the American vernacular that made him stand out among midcentury writers of fiction.
[M]ake sure you bring a barf bag when you watch this doc's tacky re-enactments, hear its cheeseball score and endure literary posturings so florid they'd embarrass the Baz Luhrmann of The Great Gatsby.
Salinger opens here Friday! Stay tuned! And in the meantime, go see these movies which are already running and that we love: Adore (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as sun-baked MILFs!), Short Term 12 (serious indie-drama goodness with an amazing Brie Larson), and Drinking Buddies (the latest and greatest from mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg).