By Eric J. Grimm
Directed by Shane Salerno.
J.D. Salinger believed that an author should only be known through his work and not through information about his personal life. If only desperate Hollywood screenwriter Shane Salerno had agreed, I wouldn’t have wasted my time watching his terrible new documentary Salinger. The film provides no complex analysis of the reclusive author and revels in its ability to give exclusive information about one of the most celebrated American authors of all time. Each revelation is drops like a thud, usually with an accompanying booming sound effect.
Salerno is not a documentarian. His Alien vs. Predator screenplays notwithstanding, he shows through this finished product that he has no business telling true stories. His ideas aren’t presented coherently either structurally or stylistically. The film is a stew of clumsy reenactments, stock war footage, and interviews with people who should never have been put on camera. All of these elements are tied together with a suspense film score that shows that Salerno really believes he’s made the great mystery of the year. He hasn’t.
Nothing in Salinger shocks because it’s no great stretch to believe that the man who created Holden Caufield was unpleasant and a bad father. I left the film with nothing to chew on, and no greater understanding of Salinger’s few available works.
This film exists as a cheap attempt for a hack screenwriter to appear legitimate. It is constantly selling itself as the authority on an author whose sense of mystery made his work all the more powerful. He’s unintentionally shamed and crushed his subject. If Salerno really wanted to shock, he should’ve had Salinger fighting the aliens and predators of his previous screenwriting attempts.