In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield scorned his brother for “(working) out in Hollywood, being a prostitute” (for the silver screen, that is). Salinger himself despised the only film made from his work (My Foolish Heart, based on his short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”) and vowed never to let Hollywood touch his work again. This hasn’t stopped Hollywood sneaking homages to Salinger and his works from time and time, or just producing movies with very similar themes and plots to Catcher in the Rye. Below is a look at a few of these films.
Igby Goes Down (2002)
Dir. Burr Steers
Igby, a perpetual prep school dropout, runs away from home and responsibility while struggling with his issues, which seem to have been brought about by his chaotic home life. Igby may be the closest that we will ever get to Catcher in the Rye onscreen since so many elements of Catcher can be found in this film: both characters come from wealthy New York families, both are perpetual prep school dropouts, both are distanced from their families, etc.
Review: The movie features some great performances, though Igby (Kieran Culkin) is very unlikeable and the movie doesn’t quite get the audience to sympathize with him.
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Dir. Fred Schepisi
Better known as one of Will Smith’s early dramatic features, this film has Will Smith’s Paul recite a summary of his “college thesis,” which examines why so many famous assassins were inspired to do what they did by Catcher in the Rye. John Guare, the Six Degrees’ playwright, appears in Salinger: The Documentary to talk about this phenomenon.
Review: This movie also features great performances, although it’s obvious that this movie was based on a play with its long scenes of dialogue and mostly static camerawork.
Garden State (2004)
Dir. Zach Braff
Zach Braff plays a young man with ennui who goes back to his home in New Jersey to attend his estranged mother’s funeral. Similarities to Catcher include: spiritually lost protagonist, important connection with a definitely younger female (Natalie Portman) and a meandering plot that takes the protagonist to many random places, people and incidents.
Review: This movie gets hated on for being precious, but that may have more to do with Braff’s well-known seemingly narcissistic obsession with his work. Overall, the movie is pleasant if slight.
Youth in Revolt (2009)
Dir. Miguel Arteta
Nick Twisp (played by Michael Cera) escapes deep into his alter ego, Francois (inspired by French New Wave films) as his home life deteriorates and also to impress a girl with Francois’ bad boy debonair. Though Holden never goes so far as to create an alter ego for himself, he does have a rich imaginative life that he often retreats into to escape the crushing reality of the world around him just like Nick.
Review: A delightfully odd movie, Michael Cera shows us how truly weird he is with this character. He still manages to be likeable even as his character does some seriously questionable things.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Dir. James Ponsoldt
Miles Teller is Sutter, a popular teenager whose life is turned upside down (in good and bad ways) when he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a girl who is very different and comfortable with her uniqueness. Saying this film is similar to Catcher in the Rye is definitely a stretch, but Sutter is very Holden-esque in his brashness and his longing for true human connection. Plus, Miles Teller looks a lot like Salinger’s physical description of Holden (tall, assured although a bit awkward, would probably look good in a red hunter’s cap).
Review: A lovely, if conventional teen romance with excellent performances from the likeable leads.