J.D. Salinger: the man, the legend

The documentary, Salinger, released this year discusses the peculiar ways of this man; his disappearing after the success of Catcher in the Rye, his dedication to his writing, and his rather inappropriate affairs with women who were, quite frankly closer to being  girls.

    The documentary is informative, involved, and detailed, including interviews with many of the women Salinger called his own and, ultimately revealing a side of Salinger that the public has never seen. One of these people is the, at the time, teenage girl who For Esme was based on. These interviews are thorough, personal, and unbelievably raw.

However, besides these interviews, the movie is rather cheesy, filled with intense portrayals of Salinger writing, being frustrated. This cheesiness and overuse of the ‘Ken Burns effect’ gives the movie a juvenile feel. The viewer is forced to laugh, for the re-enactments (which there is a ridiculous amount of) are simply unbelievable, reminding the viewer that the people on the screen are not Salinger and his companions, but rather actors, probably calling their parents and blowing up their twitters about getting their first gig.

However juvenile the feel of the movie is, structurally it is strong, walking us through Salinger’s childhood, time in the army, and eventually adulthood. This structure allows Salinger’s character to be revealed naturally and thoroughly.

Salinger, being an unbelievably interesting and mysterious, man carries the movie. It’s worth seeing just to know more about Salinger as a person. He ran from fame, ran from critics. He locked himself up and wrote for his whole life, writing works that he decided could only be published after his death. This movie is simply interesting due to Salinger himself.

So now we get to the end of this documentary. Director, Shane Salerno, has taken us on the journey of Salinger’s life. However, the film has continued to lack something vital; an interview with the man himself. Salerno reveals that Salinger has contacted him and wants to meet, forcing Salerno and his crew to a small town in New England. The viewer gets excited for an interview with this man who has persistently remained a hermit for so long. But does Salinger actually come for an interview? No. This can be looked at in two ways; Salerno has portrayed Salinger’s general  hermit nature, or that Salerno has built the viewer up just to let them down. Regardless, this film lacks this personal touch, leaving the viewer still questioning who Salinger really was, why he stopped publishing, and his general reasoning behind it all.

Salinger’s persistence to his hermit lifestyle is something that came to define his later years. To get a glimpse into this life is reason enough to see Salinger, but just be aware of the corny mood that smothers this film.