Salinger’ is an absolutely pointless documentary

J.D. Salinger was an extremely private man, and the new documentary Salinger gives no new insight into the man.

One and a half stars

Salinger Directed by Shane Salerno. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Given that he spent the vast majority of his life obsessively protecting his privacy—to the point where he stopped publishing his work altogether—it’s not surprising that J.D. Salinger failed to leave much useful material behind for documentary filmmakers. What is surprising is that somebody tried anyway, cobbling together more than two hours of breathless speculation, armchair psychology and clumsy efforts to disguise the paucity of visual information. (The dumbest ploy involves shots of a Salinger look-alike typing busily on a stage, combined with a musical score that suggests he might pick up a submachine gun at any moment.) Director Shane Salerno clearly feels a great deal of reverence for his subject, but he does Salinger no favors by reducing his rich body of work to a case of post-traumatic stress disorder, with even The Catcher in the Rye somehow interpreted as the author’s agonized reaction to his World War II combat experience. For Salinger fans, the big draw here was Salerno’s promise of revelations regarding books to be published posthumously; they can avoid a major anticlimax by just performing a quick Google search, which will provide the same scanty details without making them sit through a lot of specious nonsense.

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