Film Review – Rebel in the Rye (2017)

Title – Rebel in the Rye (2017)

Director – Danny Strong (feature debut)

Cast – Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey, Victor Garber, Hope Davis, Zoey Deutch, Brian d’Arcy James, Lucy Boynton, Sarah Paulson

Plot – A look at the key periods of reclusive and illusive author J.D Salinger’s (Hoult) life as he began to create and then publish his famous novel The Catcher in the Rye.

“With all that meditation, you’d think you would’ve learned to forgive by now”

Review by Eddie on 12/06/2018

After the disappointment that was the 2013 documentary Salinger, there was hope debut director Danny Strong could shine a light on and do justice to the real life story of reclusive but influential author J.D Salinger with his biographical drama Rebel in the Rye.

Alas it was not meant to be, as while Strong does offer us a basic insight into the mind of Salinger and the circumstances that surrounded his life and helped him create the work of genius that is The Catcher in the Rye, Rebel is a cold experience without much heart or soul and leaves us still wanting to know more about an author that has likely been a part of our lives in one way, shape or form.

Having studied The Catcher in the Rye at school like many others before me and been intrigued to understand more about Salinger’s thought process behind his creation of Holden Caulfield and the rather depressing narrative as a whole and these are questions Strong and his leading man Nicholas Hoult grapple with in Rebel but none of the situations or scenarios that founded Salinger’s life comes across fully formed in Strong’s film.

Salinger himself (much like what his real life self seemed to be like) isn’t that much of a likeable figure and while not terrible by any means, Hoult feels slightly miscast as the increasingly unhinged writer while Strong struggles with what appears to be a rather limited budget and scope to get the most out of key situations of Salinger’s life such as his stint in the army during World War 2 or even his writing process of Catcher that seems to come and go all rather quickly in one of the films many montage moments.

It’s frustrating to feel such a disconnect to Rebel as a narrative whole and particularly the rather bare bone supporting players that appear within it such as Kevin Spacey’s dedicated writing teacher Whit Burnett, Sarah Paulson as Salinger’s agent Dorothy Olding or even Salinger’s parents played by Victor Garber and Hope Davis and at the end of the day you can’t help but escape the feeling that Strong doubling up as director and screenwriter, failed to unlock the potential of this story to even a fraction of its powerful potential.

Final Say –

Offering brief moments of insight and background to the creation of one of history’s most important novels, Rebel in the Rye isn’t a complete failure but it’s still very much a lacklustre look at Salinger, leaving the door ajar for what could one say hopefully be the quintessential examination of a tortured writer and his creative genius.

2 hat wearing fans out of 5

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