Salinger is an unprecedented look into the life of very private J.D. Salinger,  most famous for writing Catcher in the Rye. Offering interviews with his friends, devoted readers, biographers, and contemporaries, the documentary follows his time serving in World War II, his handful of marriages, his creative hits and misses, and his struggle to keep out of the public eye.

I wanted to love this movie, as J.D. Salinger is one of my favourite writers; however, I left the theatre feeling completely underwhelmed, and well, sort of dirty. While I was enthralled by some new information and insight, I couldn’t help but feel as though Salinger, recently deceased in 2010, was being exploited. Throughout his life, Salinger believed that the only thing people should know about a writer is their work. Everyone will have a difference of opinion on that idea, especially in today’s age of celebrity worship, but it is something that a true Salinger fan would want to respect and honour, which director Shane Salerno did not. Throughout the documentary, there was a condescending tone towards anybody, whether it be a fan or a news outlet, who hounded Salinger for personal information, or who became swept up in the Salinger mystery.  Hypocritical much? Through the making of this film, Salerno manages to expose Salinger in the most personal of ways.

Admittedly, it is difficult to make a successful biographical documentary. Coming in at over two hours, Salinger has a lot of irrelevant filler. There are terrible, poorly executed “re-enactments” (re-enactments of what, I’m still unsure). Then there is the same photograph of Salinger that appears over and over again. Perhaps worst of all are the celebrity interviews. I like Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John Cusack as much as the next person, and I can now sleep easy at night knowing they’ve all read and loved Catcher in the Rye, but their interviews add very little to the overall documentary, and are simply a cheap gimmick to create buzz for the trailer.

The whole project is laced with an in-your-face arrogance; a kind of “Ha! We were able to compile all of this information before anyone else!” as if there was a race to the finish line. Unfortunately, that innate arrogance put a damper on the entire documentary. There is something very disingenuous about Salinger that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Is Salinger Opening Weekend Worthy?

No, not really, but your curiosity may get the best of you. At the end of the day, Salinger is one of the most intriguing writers from the 20th century, personally and professionally. And if you’re already a fan, I understand wanting to know as much as you can, but just know, you may feel like taking a shower immediately after watching this exploitative doc.

More About Salinger

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