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Saturday, 07 September 2013 00:00

'Salinger' still eludes discovery

'Salinger' still eludes discovery hollywoodreporter.com
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Shane Salerno
  • Dates: Opens September 13, 2013

Nine years in the making, Shane Salerno's documentary "Salinger" tackles that resolutely reclusive, famous writer. Roughly chronological in its exploration of J.D.'s life, "Salinger" uses archival photographs, repeating a couple from WWII, plus the few photos captured by stalkers before Salinger's 2010 death. To this, it adds interviews with two significant women in his life, testimonials, and hokey reenactments.

Jean Miller, with whom Salinger became platonically enamored on a Miami Beach in the 1940s, and Joyce Maynard, who lived with J.D. in the 1970s, describe his behavior and eventual disenchantment with them. They talk about Salinger's eccentric working methods, holed up for days in his writing bunker, for example. Punctuating all this, recognizable actors testify to the impact upon them of his 1951 "Catcher in the Rye," including Martin Sheen, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Edward Norton. A few authors also weigh in: Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, and Gore Vidal. They add only a superficial patina and made me wonder when the women would be polled and when anyone would pursue substantive insights into J.D.'s enduring appeal to men.

It doesn't come. Instead, interweaving interview footage with photos and notable stars' tributes, pulsing forward with music and sound for two hours, "Salinger" moves with quick cuts. However, as they used to say about the Platte River, it's a mile wide and an inch deep; that is, very little information stretches beyond shallow analysis. The most interesting and more well known period comes early: Salinger's determination to be published in "The New Yorker," his 300 plus days of WWII combat, his being on hand at the liberation of Dachau, and his eight month marriage in 1946 to the German Sylvia Welter--all deserving more attention than more reenactments and homages, as if J.D. needs that without more exploration of his writing talent.

On the other hand, "Salinger" does periodically become amusing, giving Salinger the last laugh. He retreated to his Cornish, New Hampshire, home and those who remain fascinated by him seem as perplexed and clueless as ever. At a Landmark Theatre.

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