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September 16, 2013 | by  | in Arts Film | [ssba]

Salinger, directed by Shane Salerno

It seems counterintuitive to make a deeply probing and personal film about a man who was determined to avoid the media. But apparently this didn’t occur to the creators of Salinger, a biopic/documentary which explores the life of writer J. D. Salinger, and also tests the boundaries of how far creative licence can stretch.

In more accurate terms, the film doesn’t just ‘explore’ the life of Salinger. While no documentary can ever be completely objective, the insistence of the filmmakers on overdramatising every detail of Salinger’s life results in somewhat forcing the audience to buy into their narrative of him being an almost monstrous person. Some scenes even feature a silhouetted figure (an actor playing Salinger) standing in front of a red screen on a stage with frantic violins yelping in the background. What is this, an NCEA Level 1 Drama assessment? The great effort evinced by the directors to impart this notion of a dark, sinister man only had the effect of reducing him to a few basic and primitive emotions.

One of the most problematic aspects of the film was the reluctance of the editors to, well, do their fucking jobs. It was impressive to see such a depth and breadth of research having been carried out on the subject matter, but much of this research was repetitive, excessive, and at times completely convoluted. Salinger may be an intriguing and evasive personality, but the two hours worth of compacted details about his life could easily have been cut down to include only the most compelling and factual arguments. Even worse than this, it was never made entirely clear why there were opinionated cameos from such actors as John Cusack (eternal babe, by the way), Philip Seymour Hoffman, or Martin Sheen.

But despite the many, many downfalls of this film, the good news is that brand-schwanking-new writing by Salinger is due to be released in 2015. WOOP.



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