'Salinger': What the Critics Are Saying

JD Salinger 1952 - H 2013
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

JD Salinger 1952 - H 2013

Shane Salerno's documentary recounts the tale of the "Catcher in the Rye" author's life.

Salinger, the documentary directed by Shane Salerno, tells the life story of Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger. The feature first premiered on the final day of the 40th Telluride Film Festival.

The biographic film showcases key aspects from the mysterious writer's life as a World War II veteran, an aspiring actor and a man involved in numerous romantic flings. Salinger also features interviews with Edward Norton, Danny DeVito and John Cusack, along with the author's family and friends.

The film, which is to be distributed by the Weinstein Co., hits theaters on Sept. 6.

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See what Hollywood critics have to say about Salinger:

The Hollywood Reporter's film critic Stephen Farber noted that while the documentary is long, "it manages to be fascinating for much of its running time."

However, Farber also found that it "disappoints on many counts, providing another example of hype outpacing actual achievement -- a syndrome that Salinger himself would probably have deplored."

Huffington Post's Marshall Fine was not shocked by the movie's "supposedly mind-blowing revelations about the late J.D. Salinger."

Fine continued to write, "Shane Salerno's Salinger turns out to be a hype -- an overblown, overlong documentary about a famous writer, with little that is either truly revelatory or earth-shaking, at least if you've been paying attention at all for the past, oh, 50 years."

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Jordan Hoffman from New York Daily News criticized the documentary for resulting in "something of a literary-style 'TMZ' -- certainly interesting, but a little bit sleazy -- and, in terms of glimpses into the man himself, ultimately disappointing. That’s because while Salinger may have been eccentric, he apparently spent most of his time alone typing."

Tom Shone of The Guardian UK wrote, "This film packs something of the same irresistibility. Salinger fans will see it through a frown of disdain, emitting occasional whimpers of protest, but see it they will for its revelations, dropped at cunningly dispersed intervals throughout an otherwise wearying two-hour-and-15-minute running time."

Entertainment Weekly's Tina Jordan rated Salerno's film with an average "C" grade. "There's also an astonishing glimpse of Salinger himself in a never-before-seen World War II-era film clip," described Jordan. "But frankly, there's not much else to look at. Given the sheer lack of existing pictures of the author, the filmmakers were forced to return to the same shots time and again, especially the brooding, iconic black-and-whites."

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The Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl deemed the movie "two bombastic, bullshit-packed hours of proof that Salinger and Caulfield were right to hide out from Hollywood."

"Yes, Salinger wrote through his exile. Yes, there is a stack of manuscripts ready to be published. Yes, they are purported to begin appearing as early as 2015. And, no, no one will remember this film by then," Scherstuhl stated.

While most critics were unimpressed by Salinger, Time Out New York's David Fear did applaud Salerno for his efforts. "The big gets aren’t the shots of an elderly Salinger hobbling but that more books may be posthumously hitting shelves in the near future, while the film’s most valuable reframe is that Salinger wasn’t a recluse so much as a control superfreak, choosing his appearances and micromanaging his public proclamations with as much calculated care as he put into his prose," wrote Fear.