J.D. Salinger, the famous American author who died in 2010 is perhaps most well-known for his controversial novel, Catcher in the Rye. However, he was equally well-known for his reclusiveness and troubled personal life, that few if any people would ever have known the full story behind. This documentary, painstakingly filmed over 9 years, also doesn’t get the full story, but it does as good a job as any such film might hope to do.
Salerno has collected interviews with over 150 relevant persons, including Hollywood celebrities and fellow authors, as well as academics of all forms and functions. They provide interviews and opinions that are interesting, but which are ultimately often still opinions, as certain things simply cannot be known. A great deal of effort is made in discussing the intrigue around Catcher in the Rye, which I suppose is natural too, but it also doesn’t provide much more introspection into the life of the author, who distanced himself from the public specifically so that his works would be disassociated from him.
Much of the film is about Salinger as a legacy rather than as a man himself, which feels to me like something he as a person would have greatly disliked, which makes the tone of the film seem ultimately more than a little exploitative of his legacy rather than honouring the man he was. It feels like a collection of pop culture essays about Salinger, which is fine, but I suspect there was a different way of viewing the man than the film would indicate.
Nevertheless, this film is a deep labour of love, and anything that can help educate the world more about one of Americas most enigmatic writers is probably a good thing. And personally I’m also usually keen to see films that took 9 years to make, they’re usually memorable for both good and bad things, and memorable is about the bare minimum I hope for in a film these days.