This Friday from writer/director Danny Strong and IFC Films is the life of an author who wrote himself into history as the “Rebel in the Rye.”
The film begins with J.D. Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) stating, “Holden Caulfield is dead!” That being said, a young Salinger is trying to find out where he belongs in the world. Convincing his parents that he wants to be a writer, Jerry enters Columbia University where he meets Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey). Immediately testing his professor, Burnett challenges Jerry to become the writer he is.
Wanting to become published, Jerry’s learns that to be published means giving up what he believes is the heart of his work. He also finds love with Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch) and the war comes into his life. Burnett sees this young writer with great potential leave for battle asking that he continue writing stories with the character of Holden Caulfield.
War is more than he can take as Jerry retreats into himself mentally telling the story of Caulfield. Trying to find his way back to the world, “The Catcher in the Rye” is born and the book explodes. Jerry and wife Claire (Lucy Boynton) find a cottage in the woods but it is only a matter of time before the world expects another masterpiece from him. Even Burnett reaches out and Caulfield isn’t keen on going farther than the fence on his land.
It is what happens when you “write and get nothing in return.”
Hoult as Salinger is absolutely stunning. He brings to the character frustration, heart ache, stubbornness, fear, challenges and all of it leads to Salinger being reclusive. He takes the character step by step but doesn’t take his foot off the gas. I loved every moment of Hoult on screen and probably because I have always loved Salinger’s work. He gives Salinger to us with the good, bad and the ugly and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So well done and thank you.
Spacey as Burnett, I mean really, do I need to say it? Spacey gives this character a sly sense of humor and cutting wit but behind it is such insecurity and fear equally Salinger’s own. Watching his protégé move forward without him, Spacey’s Burnett is struggling to reconnect with what he believes is a young man with immense talent. Spacey is once again outstanding and beautiful in this role.
Paulson as Olding is an agent who believes in her client. She continually struggles to get his work published, especially when they want rewrites, but always does what Jerry wants. Boynton as Claire tries to understand what Jerry is going through but he makes it difficult when he spends more time writing than with their marriage and children. Deutch as Oona makes Jerry happy until she doesn’t and her marriage to someone else is in the tabloids and still talked about to this day.
Other cast include Brian d’Arcy James as Giroux, Victor Garber as Sol Salinger, James Urbaniak as Gus, Adam Busch as Nigel, and Jefferson Mays as William.
The film’s director Strong writes the screenplay with Kenneth Slawenski who wrote the biography “J.D. Salinger: A Life.” Together Strong and Slawenski give the audience some insight to the life of Salinger.
“Rebel in the Rye” is cinematically beautiful with the era costuming that adds another depth to the story telling. Hoult and Spacey together are stunning playing off each other with a friendship that becomes a struggle for Salinger. The scene between the two trying to reconnect really broke my heart a bit and I loved it at the same time.
That’s really what this film does, takes us on a blink of an eye journey through the life of a writer that has captured the hearts and minds of millions — and continues to do so. After seeing the film I came home to find my copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” and within a few days came away with a deeper love of the book and a deeper joy from the film.
Discover Salinger in a different way with “Rebel in the Rye.”
In the end — it is a battle between writing and the writer!