"Reclusive.” Is that an adjective, or is it actually part of J.D. Salinger’s name? The word has been used so often to describe the famous writer, one could be forgiven for thinking it appears on his birth certificate.
But there’s obviously much more to the story of “reclusive author J.D. Salinger” than the way he withdrew from public view and publishing and spent much of his life in Cornish, N.H., where he was frequently pursued by avid fans. One of the more entertaining tidbits in “Salinger,” the exhaustive, exhausting and overly hyped new documentary by Shane Salerno, is the account of one of those fans, who made the pilgrimage and clearly felt he was owed more time than he was granted.
“I’m not a counselor,” Salinger said, finally. “I’m a fiction writer.”
MOVIE PREVIEW: Salinger
It would have been enough if “Salinger” had merely explored that one idea: How much did this writer, after capturing the world’s attention with “The Catcher in the Rye,” owe us? Did he owe us a sequel, a novel every few years, or his presence on talk shows, with opinions on the issues of the day? Did he “owe” us more than he gave, before his death in 2010 at the age of 91? It seems many felt that way.
But Salerno, until now best known as a screenwriter for “Armageddon” and “Savages,” spent nearly a decade researching Salinger for this project, which includes a 700-page book and a TV documentary. And he had enough material, clearly, for five different films: “Salinger and his Wartime Past,” for example. “Salinger and his Women.” “Salinger and His Struggles With Fame.” Instead, he took a kitchen-sink approach, and while the film moves quickly for its 120 minutes, that approach blunts its impact.