Salinger

Out Now On-Demand

Exhaustively researched documentary on author J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. Compiled from five years of research and over 150 interview subjects, including Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ed Norton and Danny DeVito.

The filmmakers claim this to be the first work to get beyond the author's meticulously built up wall: his childhood, painstaking work methods, marriages, private world and the secrets he left behind after his death in 2010.

Trailers

Directed by

Documentary

120mins

Rating: M War footage

USA

Official Site

There’s a lot to cover in Salinger, seeing as its reclusive subject is one of the most talked-about authors of the 20th Century. Dense, and possibly treating the author with too much reverence, Shane Salerno’s doco is at times also over-wrought, but luckily his subject is so damn intriguing that he carries Salinger through its most heavy-handed moments.

While the film’s long, Salerno squanders little of its running time, cunningly crafting a structure that cuts back and forth between two narratives – the relatively contemporary search for a famous, disappeared author and a chronological account of his life and career, with the two fused in the film’s ‘not allowed to talk about’ conclusion. In adding the mystery around Salinger’s self-imposed isolation to the historical account of his career, Salerno manages to raise this above the literary TV documentary it could easily have seemed and makes the film a more interesting prospect for those unfamiliar with either crotchety ol’ Salinger himself or his most famous work The Catcher in the Rye.

Strangely the documentary doesn’t place much emphasis on why Salinger holds such a strong sway over his most dedicated, obsessive fans – at least not beyond the immense cultural and personal impact of his iconic novel. As Salerno interviews one of the many who have tracked Salinger down and sought an audience with him, he seems less interested in the motive behind such a pilgrimage than what Salinger said or did in response. I suppose it’s no surprise that someone making a doco on the author would share the same obsession, but it points to one of the few missed opportunities for analysis in what is a gripping film nevertheless.

Entertainment Weekly

press

At two hours and nine minutes, Salinger is at least 40 minutes too long, suffering, just like the book, from its creators' obsessive zeal. Only here, you can't page ahead to the next chapter.

IndieWire (USA)

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An enthralling account.

Guardian (UK)

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Salinger fans will see it through a frown of disdain, emitting occasional whimpers of protest, but see it they will for its revelations...

Hollywood Reporter

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The cult of J.D. Salinger will be burnished by this lively but superficial doc.

New York Times

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It is curious that a movie about such a notorious perfectionist should be so sloppy in matters of judgment and craft.

The Dissolve (USA)

press

It is everything the Salinger of his books was not: predictable, cliched, banal, and worst of all, phony.

Time Out New York

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You wonder why Salerno thought the man who created Holden Caulfield would be best served by an abundance of sentimentalism, a stock sap-tastic score and some genuinely cheesy dramatizations on a black stage (the director is no Hollywood phony, but still).

Variety (USA)

press

It ends up feeling like a long-winded carnival-barker pitch, even though a goodly number of genuine gems are buried within its noisy confines.