Movie Review: Rebel in the Rye

Over the weekend, I went to the Nickelodeon Theatere in Columbia and saw the movie Rebel in the Rye. This film is a biographical drama about J.D. Salinger, famously known for writing The Catcher in the Rye.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Director: Danny Strong

Based on: J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski

J.D. Salinger never wanted a film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye made because he thought that no one could portray Holden Caulfield as he intended. This movie comes very close to breaking that rule, and I am still hung up on that.

The movie starts off with J.D. Salinger in a mental hospital similar to Holden Caulfield in the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye: it features a scene where he asks someone where they think the ducks go when the pond freezes over, and a scene where he watches the kids on the carousel in the park.

Aside from that fact, this film was excellent because of how accurate it presented J.D. Salinger’s life. While many biographic films can sometimes lose the interest of the viewer, I was enthralled the whole time because of the way it combines elements of a documentary and a regular feature film. Another reason why this film was particularly interesting was because of the acting of Nicholas Hoult as J.D. Salinger and Kevin Spacey as Whit Burnett, his professor at Columbia University. Their delivery of the dialogue made every emotion of the characters feel important, and it allowed the audience to connect with them and understand their struggles.

Although J.D. Salinger wasn’t the greatest of guys, like most authors in the 30s/40s, this movie made me appreciate his writing process and how much he went through to produce a novel like The Catcher in the Rye. After he fought in World War II, he came back to America unmotivated to write because of the horrors he just saw and endured. He was able to persevere though and produce his classic novel

This film received mixed reviews from film critics, but in my opinion, there wasn’t much to dislike about it. My only thoughts are that there were a few moments when the dialogue could have been shortened to avoid drifting towards clichés, and they could have focused solely on J.D. Salinger’s life instead of showing all the parallels between his life and the life of Holden Caulfield. But maybe that was something Danny Strong intended to show.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed reading The Catcher in the Rye over the summer or to anyone who likes biographical movies because this film was anything but lousy or phony.

Check out the Nickelodeon Theatere the next time you’re in Columbia and support the only nonprofit Art House Theater in South Carolina!