I’ll come out and say it – Rebel in the Rye is a disappointing film. Even if you’re a fan of JD Salinger’s classic novel The Catcher in the Rye, this film about the author’s life will feel like a drag on your time. The film touches upon events – from his time in New York, to the second world war – in Salinger’s (Nicholas Hoult) life as he tries to find his place in the world, and who eventually does so with his literary masterpiece. After that, he retreats from the world. Before that, though, we go from his college days, to the time he spent in high society, to the battlefield in quick succession. The problems with the film are almost immediately apparent – all of the scenes lack depth, and we’re thrown from one life event to another without time to become emotionally invested.
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Salinger’s life events and feelings fall foul of one of the worst things a film can do – it’s all told to us through his inner monologue instead of being shown. Hoult does his best but his (very handsome) face does little to express the full and complex character of Salinger who, in the film, confesses to feeling like he truly identifies with Holden Caulfield – the protagonist in his novel. The less said about the romance between him and socialite Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch), the better.
There are few saving graces for Rebel in the Rye, which has a fairly generic storyline and is let down by poor storytelling. However, as a film telling the story of a man caught between having his writing scrutinised by millions, and using it as his own form of creative release, it doesn’t do too badly. If you want to learn more about the real-life Salinger, though, stick to something like Kenneth Slawenski’s J.D. Salinger: A Life instead. This is the biography that the film was based upon, and is more worth your time than this.
Edited by Ginny Wong