“Rebel In The Rye” was never a good idea. While the merits of J.D. Salinger’s oeuvre are endless, especially when it comes to “Catcher In The Rye,” delving into his past was always going to draw comparisons that the film just couldn’t carry. In the end it sinks without a trace, mainly because J.D. Salinger’s story doesn’t have the cinematic weight to warrant telling.
You can feel writer and director Danny Strong (“The Butler,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” and “Part 2”) trying to stretch and eke out a movie from Salinger’s past. There’s the obligatory use of the non-linear storytelling device, which sees us introduced to J.D. Salinger when he was suffering from PTSD in the aftermath of World War II, as well as an infuriating use of narration, which drops in and out whenever it is required to paper over some cracks.
All the while the film just rambles on. But, like a drunk uncle at a wake, it quickly becomes white noise. It is not overly offensive or ghastly to watch unfold, though. It is just that the film’s only memorably quality is how remarkably unremarkable it is. What makes matters worse is that “Rebel In The Rye” actually has a cast that should make it more worthwhile.
While the likes of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the “X-Men” films have proven he can be stellar in supporting roles, as a leading man Nicholas Hoult continues to briefly suggest that he has the presence to be an A-lister, only to ultimately lack the punch and longevity to back it up. Hoult’s interactions with Kevin Spacey, who plays the teacher and mentor to a young Salinger, are the film’s brightest points, but even they fall way short of making an impression. The supporting Zoey Deutch, Sarah Paulson, Victor Garber and Hope Davis each try valiantly, too, it’s just that there’s just nothing for them to grab onto.
Ultimately, “Rebel In The Rye” possesses tiny tidbits of information regarding the writing process that you might slightly tilt your head in acknowledgment at. But, in the end, it’s no more informative than quickly glancing through J.D Salinger’s Wikipedia page.