Movie Review: Rebel in the Rye

By Devon Hannan, Editorial Director
[West Madison Entertainment; 2017]
Rating: 2/10

How many times are movie directors going to try to get around J.D. Salinger’s impossible rights to The Catcher in the Rye? Obviously at least one more, because this pile of garbage is coming in hot and steamy. There is a reason that Salinger made sure, that even after his death, his most critically acclaimed novel wouldn’t be turned into a film. Just sit five minutes into Rebel in the Rye and you will understand why.

While this film isn’t about The Catcher in the Rye, specifically, it is a biopic of J.D. Salinger. But boy, do they pull as many quotes from that fucking novel as they possibly can. Every other line of dialogue is from the book itself and half of the time, it just doesn’t make sense. There is even a scene where J.D. Salinger (played by Nicholas Hoult) is drunk as a skunk and he gives the whole spiel about asking some stranger where the ducks go when the pond freezes over. Do you really think that J.D. Salinger would have remembered that occurrence enough to put it in his book? Especially with such overzealous acting? Absolutely not. In addition, you couldn’t count how many times Holden says that he is going to give some girl “the time” or that every publisher that turns down his shit short stories is a “phony.” Nine Stories isn’t that good. Get over it, J.D.

The plot of the film does pick up in the middle, but not very much. The boring, whiny story about an author that can’t get off the ground suddenly turns into an artsy war movie (yeah, we don’t get it either). While J.D. Salinger did actually suffer PTSD after World War II, that suddenly becomes a very big plot point for the rest of the film – and understandably so. While most of Salinger’s success came after the war, his PTSD led him to live a life of solitude, studying Buddhism and “writing for himself and not publishers.” The rest of the movie drags on for another 45 minutes – but don’t worry – they still sprinkle close to another hundred unnecessary Catcher in the Rye references.

The film, written and directed by Danny Strong, kisses J.D. Salinger’s misogynistic ass from start to finish. Full of almost passable, but certainly cringy slurs, Danny Strong makes it so obvious that Holden Caulfield is J.D. Salinger. With that being said, the best parts of The Catcher in the Rye are blatantly played out on the screen – and not well. If you’re going to make it obvious, you may as well make it good (write that one down, Danny).

In addition to that, the line delivery is slow and either as monotone as it could possibly be, or ridiculously overdone. The shots are bad and unbalanced to the point where it affects actors’ expressions. There is absolutely no character development aside from that of J.D. Salinger and (sometimes) his professor, Whit. And finally, the score is WAY too intense for a film about writing lackluster books. The only reason that this film is getting any points at all is because it is relatively historically accurate.

Nevertheless, this movie might be one of the worst movies made this year. Both J.D. Salinger and Holden Caulfield are turning in their graves and the sight of it. In fact, I made a trailer of The Catcher in the Rye for a high school English project that turned out better than this film. For all of the movie producers out there: it’s time we left Catcher alone. (At least until the rights are attainable and ya’ll can ACTUALLY make a movie about The Catcher in the Rye instead of Salinger’s sorry ass.)

Watch the trailer here:

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