|"Salinger: The Movie" still feels like a strange phrase to say.
||[Sep. 24th, 2013|09:46 am]
Geoffrey H. Goodwin -- I Can See in the Dark
In seeing Salinger, I was blown away by it—and I’ve never wanted to be a writer more than I did as I left Hollywood Hits in Danvers. (Don’t worry. The feeling faded.) Yet it’s a strange film because it's a documentary that serves to remove gaps from a subject that remains relatively unknown. It's almost a movie about how hard it is to make a movie about nothingness. Or how hard it is to make being a writer look interesting on the big screen when the writer remains obscured.
Other than a few bits and pieces, it wasn’t revelatory, at least not for me. Almost all of the information in the film, even for someone like me who—out of respect for Salinger, I guess—hasn’t read his daughter's memoir or investigated much about him other than the basics, I still knew 85% of the film’s information going in. Really, the only tidbits are the specific examples of what’s to come, which sounds quite tantalizing, profound, and brilliant.
And then the old photographs make the movie. The rare visual evidence of him is certainly a powerful experience. The chronology tells the story well considering the subject is a reclusive man who did nothing truly public for forty years, and they have just enough photos to bring that together, though a more literary film that focused on the actual fiction Salinger wrote would’ve been more fun and have more depth than watching this movie about Salinger’s reclusiveness and what he looked like. This was a film about who Salinger was, not what Salinger wrote.
So, mostly and in general, I wish there were more documentaries about writers. I also think it would be a valuable film to show a romantic partner when a relationship with a writer starts to get serious: Here are some of the challenges you might face if you continue on this path.
I enjoyed it immensely, blown away and inspired to go write, and there’s certainly something to be said for understanding how great literature occurs—but there's not any take-home point or deep meaning as much, at least for me, as an imperative to go write stories and go read books.
And, holy goodness like time capsules, it's weird to know that, from 2015 to 2020, new books are said to be coming out expanding the Glass and Caufield family stories, and other works.
I related to Salinger more than I expected and want to reread what I've read of his fiction and then finish the ones I haven’t read. I've always been reluctant to run out of Salinger, but I’m convinced that there’s more work coming, so I’m willing to plow through what’s already been published in preparation for a crazy second act.
All told, it’s a powerful film despite not actually having a clear look at its subject, at least for someone like me who spends most of their time reading and writing and who was one of the millions who was changed by the experience of reading Catcher in the Rye in 9th grade.