(director/writer: Danny Strong; screenwriter: from the bio “J.D. Salinger: A Life” by Kenneth Slawenski; cinematographer: Kramer Morgenthau; editor: Joseph Krings; music: Bear McCreary; cast: Nicholas Hoult (Jerry Salinger), Kevin Spacey (Whit Burnett), Sarah Paulson (Dorothy Olding), Zoey Deutch (Oona O’Neill), Hope Davis (Miriam), Victor Garber (Sol), Bernard White (Swami Nikhilananda); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Bruce Cohen, Jason Shuman, Danny Strong, Molly Smith, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill; IFC Films; 2017)

A leaden simplistic biopic of the celebrated recluse author J. D. Salinger–a movie he would have most likely detested.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A leaden simplistic biopic of the celebrated recluse author J. D. Salinger–a movie he would have most likely detested. Salinger refused to allow a movie to be made of his classic 1951 “The Catcher in the Rye,” even though he was not adverse to movies.

Director-writer Danny Strong, an actor and TV writer, in his directorial debut, never gets a handle on the writer, as his cliche-ridden script awkwardly fumbles around with dutifully making nice moves to the legend but not knowing how to do it gracefully. Strong adapts it from the 2010 biography “J.D. Salinger: A Life” by Kenneth Slawenski. Jerry David Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) in 1939 attends Columbia University to become a writer. His dad Sol (Victor Garber) is a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, who is a wealthy cheese and meat distributor and was critical of his son for wanting to be a writer. His wasp mom Miriam (Hope Davis) encourages him to be a writer. At Columbia, Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey) is the teacher and editor of “Story” magazine who reaches out to make the glib big-mouth a serious writer. During W.W. II the 22-year-old Jerry joined the army and after the war expected to marry the attractive Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch), the daughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but she married instead the 53-year-old Chalie Chaplin. When Jerry returned from the battlefields and was overwhelmed by the horrors of war, his agent (Sarah Paulson) kept him writing about his teen hero, the Holden Caulfield character, his alter ego, and the book became a breakthrough novel that is still selling today (over 65 million copies in total).

After his successes with “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Nine Stories,” in the early 1940s Jerry relocated from Manhattan to the woods in New Hampshire and stayed away from the public eye. He lived a quiet Zen life after three failed marriages and died in 2010, at age 91. The conventional biopic might be watchable but is not particularly good.

Rebel in the Rye Poster