I was excited and optimistic to see this, to see if these relatively unknown (to me) filmmakers would approximate anything close to a realistic portrayal of the man who bore the fictional legend. Sadly, it was a big disappointment. Admittedly I know as little about Salinger as most anyone does, but from what little I have read and learned about the person and his life, the whole film just seemed ill cast and played like a very contrived, superficial depiction of the man and his work. I would question how much research the film makers actually did, or perhaps just their sensibilities at understanding an aloof, isolated, lost soul, who is depicted a bit too pretty, perfect and dapper even in the pinnacle of his youth...not the Salinger I think anyone who really related to or understood someone deeply tortured as he would characterize him. It kind of felt like Matt Damon/pretty boy of the week doing his best Toby MacQuire (he would have actually been a better casting choice, the pre-Spiderman less Hollywood Toby we knew from The Icestorm or Pleasantville Days, that is...or perhaps even a Zach Braff circa Garden State type lead, if one must cast an up-and-coming star with socially aloof predilections). But Nicholas Hoult, whoever you are (I don't really follow current celebrity trends)...you are no young Salinger.
Then there's Kevin Spacey, who, looking plump and unpolished, is still one of my least favorite actors (House of whatever, shut up, yes I know)...he's the same in every movie to me. For the first few scenes in the classroom, I actually found myself questioning if it was really Spacey indeed, for the first time in my life finding him in a persona where I didn't immediately recognize, "Oh, I'm watching Kevin Spacey being Kevin Spacey, trying to act." I'm almost certain those classroom scenes were looped (ADR) with his or another actor's voice, because mid-way through the movie Kevin's distinct lispy dialog crept back in, and suddenly I was just watching Kevin Spacey be himself again. I'm not sure who the actor was who dubbed over his voices during the first act, but I did enjoy that side of Spacey, a side where for once I forget who he was. An uneven performance? To say the least.
Perhaps most annoyingly, Basil Exposition kept popping up...the writers/filmmakers over-use of catchwords like "phonies" and "giving' her the time" ripped from the pages of Catcher were cute the first time, not really the second time, and by the fourth or fifth repetition I wondered if they really understood anything beyond a cursory textbook, tabloid interpretation of Salinger and his life at all.
I found myself waiting for the movie to end. Like many, this is one of my favorite books of all time, and this film attempt flopped short of any hopeful expectation.
Perhaps this first deeply flawed attempt will serve as an impetus for better writers/filmmakers/historians/researchers to come along, and finally do justice to the man and the masterpiece that have captivated and touched lost souls across this lonely planet for so long.
I'll still be waiting in the rye.
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