Many people will enjoy the crap out of this movie because of its angsty hero and the story of his perseverance in the face of a hostile world. The directional arc of this story is almost religious in its message of faith, of feeling chosen, of attempting to interpret the uninterpretable, and forcing yourself to push through the darkness. If that's what the movie had been about, it would have been an absolute masterpiece. Maybe I'm asking too much for a movie to be so aware of its message that its context and narrative go in that direction also.
Unfortunately, the movie is about the universal nature of the mythic Holden Caulfield character. The screenwriter has done exactly what Salinger told him not to do, to interpret the mythos and reduce it to a cheap psychoanalysis of what that character means. As a fan of the book myself, it's disheartening to see just how misinterpreted it becomes even in the most capable of hands.
Don't get me wrong, this movie is enjoyable in and of itself. The movie itself is great looking and moderately satisfying. Cooper is particularly enjoyable as the man himself, operating as both the wise man on the hill and the man behind the curtain. The filmmaker did a fine job with what he had to work with, which was a flawed script that comes to conclusions that don't quite fit together. The hero on a quest motif works extremely well here, but there were many missed opportunities on the journey to reach for more. The opening half-hour comes from a pretty dark and intense place, but that energy isn't sustained, as it instead veers into syrupy redemption rather than attempting to make any statements about where that darkness and intensity comes from. It's apparently enough just to state it exists, like the dragon that must either be slain or domesticated. I don't dislike this movie, but it's frustrating to see a fairly pat story applied to a very complex subject, and attempt to get away with it by shrugging about what it means. The story could very easily have been about what it means instead of simply the shrug.
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