THE WORD “BETTER” can be used like a knife. On one hand it is a tool that assists in creating wonderful food dishes in the kitchen; but on the flip side it can be uttered at a person, denting their self-confidence. The person who uses this word may think they are being complimentary; sometimes they are clueless however, not aware of the impact they are having on someone. We can all agree the statement, “Hope you get better soon,” is a positive comment. Telling a friend the dress they are trying on looks better on them than the 1st one they tried is also a positive and maybe helpful statement. When one uses the word “better” in this type of context I am totally on board. NOW YOU MAY not agree 100% with me but I am not a fan of the word “better” when it is used for motivation; it does not always motivate. A teacher telling a student they could have done a better job on their assignment does not have the same effect as asking a student to explain their decisions in doing the homework they way they did. I have learned more when I have been asked why I chose such and such or how I came to that conclusion. Having someone just telling me I could do better does not sit well with me; from my experiences it tends to have a negative connotation. I remember a school project I worked on for a couple of weeks. When it came time to get reviewed one of the things the teacher expressed to me was how she was looking forward to my next project because she knew it would be better. What does that exactly mean? Was she telling me my current assignment was just okay? I will tell you what her words and the comments I received from several sources through my life did to me; they made me more determined to prove them wrong. Hmm, was that their original intention? DESPITE HIS FATHER Sal’s, played by Victor Garber (Titanic, Argo), objections about his writings Jerome David Salinger, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road), refused to give up. He felt he had something to say. This biographical drama also starred Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Dorothy Olding, Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential, House of Cards-TV) as Whit Burnett, and Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!, Why Him?) as Oona O’Neill. I thought the cast was excellent along with their perfect for the period outfits and the settings around them. If what I was watching was true then the story was fascinating to me about the reclusive author. His book “The Catcher in the Rye” was required reading at my school; I assume most schools across the country had it as part of their English/Literature classes. What did not work for me in this film was the script. There already was a curious mystique to J.D. Salinger; I felt like I was not learning anything new that I had not seen in the news or on the internet. There was a weakness in the drama that kept most things on an even keel in my opinion. From what I was watching I wanted to learn more about the motivations behind the actions; instead, the scenes seemed like they were glossing over the details. If there was an opportunity to ask the writers, I would ask them why they chose the parts they wrote about in this script.
After so many years the details have lost their crispness; I can only recall the feelings. High school was such a strange place for me. Spending 8 years with the same classmates in elementary school was my safe haven. Sure there were disagreements and several cliques, but they were minor aberrations in the scheme of things. Being thrown in with students from 4 other elementary schools was overwhelming. Add a schedule of different subjects and classrooms into the mix, I thought I would not be able to navigate the sea of strangers flowing through the hallways of the high school. It turned out the compass that would guide me that first year was my English literature class. Catcher in the Rye was one of the novels that was on our list of required reading. It was in that classroom where all of us freshmen found commonality through Holden Caulfield. I can remember the way he talked and acted was different then anyone else I had read about in elementary school. Here was a character that my classmates and I could rally around; I finally found myself being part of a group. All of us wanted to know who was this author J.D. Salinger but by then there was a mystery building up around the solitary writer. This documentary tried to unravel the secrecy around the reclusive wordsmith. Starting out having the photographer talk about how he shot one of the last photographs of Salinger was a great way to draw in the viewer. I enjoyed the scenes of the New England town where Salinger lived and especially the interviews with the local residents. If the story would have stayed with the local townspeople I think it would have made a more entertaining movie. Having celebrities such as Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, The Ides of March) and Edward Norton (Fight Club, The Illusionist) talk about Salinger was peculiar to me. However, I found it more interesting when they had some of his contemporaries like Gore Vidal (Myra Breckinrdige, Is Paris Burning) and Tom Wolfe (The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Right Stuff). Due to the little information available on Salinger there was not much this movie could offer. There were long passages where I was bored. With reenactments and the repeated use of the same photos, all I could think of was how Salinger and Holden would have hated this film.
1 3/4 stars