This week, The Weinstein Company hosted a special screening of director Shane Salerno’s documentary "Salinger." Examiner.com was on the scene at the premiere, which was held at MoMA and a fun party followed at Forty Four at Royalton. The film opens nationwide today on Friday, September 6.
One of the most iconic figures in literature, J.D. Salinger is a man that millions, me included, admire. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a book that all of us have read at some point in time and have all said, "This is everything I've been trying to say, but couldn't." Salinger had a massive influence on everyone and he still does to this day. But what do we know about the man? What created these stories inside of him? Shane Salerno's documentary "Salinger" looks to answer the questions we've all been wondering. While "Salinger" can be a bit invasive, we're provided a clearer look into the life and past of J.D. Salinger.
With Salinger, we see the man as a young adult and how he reacts to the rich, beach club type of lifestyle that he grow up in. As the details spill out, the more evident it becomes that Holden Caulfield wasn't a character he came up with, but it was actually him put down on paper. We see Salinger before, during, and after World War II and how the events shaped him as a person. Everything he has gone through in life, love, and war developed the person he would become as well as who he would end up creating.
The film didn’t rely on the interviews with the well-known celebrities of today such as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ed Norton. Combined they get maybe two minutes. No, the film focuses heavily on those people who were closest to Salinger at one point as well as a couple of Salinger fans, the women in his life, and the people who studied him for a living. We get a glimpse into the mind of this man through his friends and peers, sometimes entering a place we don’t want to be. Salinger wasn’t a saint; far from it, actually. If you did one thing wrong, you were out of his life and that was that.
While watching, I hated Salinger, loved Salinger, sympathized with Salinger; the film took a neutral stance on Salinger as a person and instead of idolizing him, it humanized him. With someone who can be referred to as an icon or a God, that's not what one would call a simple task. The question can be asked if the film went a bit too far, a bit too deep. Details are revealed that I'm sure J.D. Salinger himself would have never wanted to be revealed.
"Salinger" is an exceptional documentary that could be the best work Salerno has done yet. But at what cost? Salinger fanatics may hate the film,, since it breaks open this man’s life who tried so hard to hide every detail from the world. And yet, they may love it since we get a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest American writers in the history of literature. We're shown the details of his life, from growing up to the hurt and the demons he struggled with in between. Salinger is a gripping tale of the man millions admire and it's impossible to pull your eyes off the screen once it begins rolling.
With reporting by Joshua Kaye