How to wear denim this summer
DIRECTOR: Shane Salerno
CAST: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny deVito, John Guare, Martin Sheen, David Milch, Robert Towne, Tom Wolfe, E L Doctorow, Gore Vidal, |A Scott Berg, Elizabeth Frank
CLASSIFICATION: 10-12 PG V
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes
Director Shane Salerno has an admittedly tricky obstacle in making Salinger, a documentary about the intensely private Catcher in the Rye author, JD Salinger.
After the tale of Holden Caulfield made Salinger a cele- brity, the writer took up residence in small-town New Hampshire, avoiding press and fans. As a result, footage and photos of the author, who died in 2010, are hard to come by.
Salerno makes up for what he lacks visually with dramatic re-enactments of a similarly tall, dark man jabbing at a typewriter in front of a giant movie screen that’s supposed to convey Salinger’s thoughts. Otherwise, the director repeatedly presents the same handful of photos. Both tactics are distracting.
Among the storytellers are friends, acquaintances, unau- thorised biographers, nutty fanatics and some big names, including Tom Wolfe, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gore Vidal. What emerges is the portrait of a self-assured man who never had any doubt he would become a successful writer. But his tour of duty during World War II, which probably inspired his masterwork, also irreparably damaged his psyche.
According to interviews, Salinger was domineering and volatile, and those traits ended numerous relationships.
Jean Miller and Joyce Maynard, both teenagers when they met the much-older Salinger and started relationships with him, offer their own sad stories. The film hints that these women stand in for many other girls that Salinger targeted and ultimately dispensed with.
While some of the stories are interesting, the film is longer than it needs to be. For his part, Salerno tries to get creative with solutions for the lack of visual stimuli, but most attempts fail. For example, Maynard was interviewed twice telling the same story, but at different times, wearing differ- ent clothes. Salerno edits these interviews together. The result is not only perplexing but indicative that there may have been some kind of script, which hurts the movie’s credibility.
Worse, the movie is riddled with overly evocative music, some of which sounds like it belongs in a thriller.
It’s clear that Salinger wants to offer new insights by covering fresh territory. The film features a clip of the man while in Europe during World War II, accepting a flower from a lady. There is no audio, and the scene is rather basic, yet the film makes a point of explaining that this is never-before-seen footage. This snippet might be a new discovery, but it adds no depth.
The latest word is that The Weinstein Company wants to develop a biopic about Salinger with Salerno as the screenwriter. Given the many stories about Salinger and the dearth of images, it would have been more efficient just to skip the documentary altogether. – Washington Post