There’s a lot to cover in Salinger, seeing as its reclusive subject is one of the most talked-about authors of the 20th Century. Dense, and possibly treating the author with too much reverence, Shane Salerno’s doco is at times also over-wrought, but luckily his subject is so damn intriguing that he carries Salinger through its most heavy-handed moments.
While the film’s long, Salerno squanders little of its running time, cunningly crafting a structure that cuts back and forth between two narratives – the relatively contemporary search for a famous, disappeared author and a chronological account of his life and career, with the two fused in the film’s ‘not allowed to talk about’ conclusion. In adding the mystery around Salinger’s self-imposed isolation to the historical account of his career, Salerno manages to raise this above the literary TV documentary it could easily have seemed and makes the film a more interesting prospect for those unfamiliar with either crotchety ol’ Salinger himself or his most famous work The Catcher in the Rye.
Strangely the documentary doesn’t place much emphasis on why Salinger holds such a strong sway over his most dedicated, obsessive fans – at least not beyond the immense cultural and personal impact of his iconic novel. As Salerno interviews one of the many who have tracked Salinger down and sought an audience with him, he seems less interested in the motive behind such a pilgrimage than what Salinger said or did in response. I suppose it’s no surprise that someone making a doco on the author would share the same obsession, but it points to one of the few missed opportunities for analysis in what is a gripping film nevertheless.
‘Salinger’ Movie Times