Rebel in the Rye Reviews
Salinger is played by Nicholas Hoult, one of my favorite young-ish actors who can't quite reach stardom. He's a fine actor, and has lots of screen charm but hasn't found his real breakthrough yet. At least in my opinion.
Usually he's used as window dressing in trivial roles, even in serious movies. If you haven't seen Hoult's star making turn in BBC's Skins" first season - this was ten years ago, mind you -, you probably won't even recognize or care about him.
But yes, he's appeared in a string of blockbusters too, such as the three last X-Men" (as Hank / Beast) and Jack the Giant Slayer", or Mad Max: Fury Road". He is often heavily disguised tho. You may also remember him from About a Boy" (2002) but back then he was only just a boy.
Rebel's" main strength is not its historical accuracy, nor well-balanced story about the great man's life, nor going deep as its hero aspired to, but a fact that the writer-director Danny Strong bets on one strength and goes happily all in on it.
The strength is this being a true actors' movie, and they truly deliver. The performances are wonderful and everything else is there to support them. I would argue they have reached drama series quality storytelling, only in shorter form, in 106 minutes.
Hoult appears appropriately soulful but mentally fragile, and Kevin Spacey as the only other major character (his mentor / friend) is just as solid as you'd expect from screen veteran of his standing.
Every scene Spacey's in is like a masterclass of great movie acting. If this was a project of much higher calibre - instead of premiering in Sundance this January and then disappearing quickly - we would talk about serious Oscar chances. You know how deliciously the man can be.
Critics are true that the movie is ultimately pretty shallow and petty, just what Salinger himself would have tried to avoid, but it's pretty and well-acted, and makes some points about being creative and/or famous that every modern person would still benefit from considering.
Such as doing something doesn't mean you're all that creative or deserve much praise. Or: true creativity emerges after working through your fears and vanity. Or also: being famous is not for everybody.
In 2010's, there's been a new trend to create fictional movies about real people and/or situations. Most are mainstream (i.e, shallow), as is Rebel in the Rye", but this doesn't reduce its power to entertain in a cheesy way.
The result is likable indeed. Writing is a lonely job and "Rebel" has the power to remind us the glamorous side of it too, if only for a second.
The draw of the film for me and the other five people in the audience was to discover why JD Salinger never published anything again. Why did he become a hermit and bury himself deep in the New Hampshire woods? Why wouldn't he sell the movie rights to Catcher for millions? Why did he turn recluse? No interviews, no contact with the outside world, no phones or TVs or computers. Was he simply nuts? The film tries explore these issues but fails to tell us whether Salinger went off his rocker after seeing so much horror in WW2 or he wanted to separate himself from all distraction of the world around him to write. I have always believed that most writers like Salinger only have one good book in them, like Mario Puzzo, in "The Godfather" and James Jones in "From Here to Eternity." JD Salinger obsessed for years on "Catcher" before writing the novel After it was written, perhaps he withdrew from the world because he knew that he could never write anything better. The film is a study of a possessed soul who wanted to rid himself of humanity. It's worth seeing if you don't mind sitting in an empty theater and being left with the same unanswered questions.