Would you buy this above pictured actor as a Supermodel or the tortured author J.D. Salinger? Nicholas Hoult as handsome and photogenic as can be, really mostly fails as “The Rebel in the Rye,” author Salinger of “Catcher in the Rye.” I mean, he’s a super-hero, not a writer. And it’s a shame. I mean, I left this well-meaning, but superficial movie, never wanting to read anything Salinger wrote ever again. And that’s just sad.
It was like drinking too much Pepsi. And I hate Pepsi. The neo-phyte director, Danny Strong, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is so obsessed with Salinger that he casts someone (Hoult), who is BRITISH, and from the Mutant movies as SALINGER? Sacrilege! Salinger was an Upper West Side, rich, Jew punk and Hoult is about as Jewish as the Duchess of Cornwall!!
And it a shame, because Strong has assembled a first-rate cast of great New York actors around the hopelessly good-looking and inert, inept Hoult, and they all do the best to cover his limitations and the cliché-ridden script.
Zoey Deutsch does POP effectively as the teenage Oona O’Neill who, yes, Salinger was really involved with. Hoult comes alive in their boy/girl scenes, and it looks like “Rebel in the Rye” might really go somewhere. But alas, the whip-smart Oona dumps him for Charlie Chaplin ( yes, that really happened ) early in the film, and never really recovers, when she departs his life and hence the picture.
Strong IS strong on atmosphere, and the post-war II New York is captured quite convincingly by his cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, and production designer Dina Goldman.
He’s also lucky he has one of America’s greatest actresses, Emmy-Winner Sarah Paulson on hand as Salinger’s devoted, long-suffering agent. Paulson, like Deutsch makes her scenes believable. Also onboard are Kevin Spacey as Salinger’s writing teacher at Columbia U. And Jefferson Mayes and Bryan D’arcy-James as the publishers, Salinger must confront and overcome. They all make the boilerplate they’re handed in the last half of the movie, palatable.
But this is a profoundly JEWISH story, and what does the director do? Casts two goyim as Salinger and his Jewish father. Victor Garber is Canadian, for cripe’s sake! He’s playing the supposedly stern conservative, against-his-son’s career father! More mis-casting! Non-Jews playing Jews! I thought we had moved WAAAAAY past this point, but I guess not.
And Nicholas Hoult will have a big career and be cast as he should be, a super-model or super-hero, where he doesn’t have to actually act. And he’ll be fine.
What a shame! But this film has turned me off reading Salinger forever. Justabout.