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Rebel in the Rye

2017-11-24 07:48

What it's about:

The world of legendary writer J. D. Salinger is brought vividly to life in this revealing look at the experiences that shaped one of the most renowned, controversial, and enigmatic authors of our time. Set amidst the colourful backdrop of mid-20th century New York City, the film follows a young Salinger as he struggles to find his voice, pursues a love affair with famed socialite Oona O’Neill, and fights on the frontlines of World War II. It’s these experiences that inform the creation of his masterpiece, The Catcher in the Rye, bringing him overnight fame (and notoriety) and leading him to withdraw from the public eye—for the rest of his life.

What we thought:


I’ve always been fascinated by the life of writer J.D. Salinger. His reclusiveness after the success of The Catcher in the Rye merely heightened the interest in both the author and his work.

First published in 1951 this American classic still sells about 250 000 copies a year and is almost always on a “must read” list. 

The film titled, Rebel in the Rye is a biographical drama written by Danny Strong and based on the book J. D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski. It mostly focuses on Salinger’s life pre- and post-World War II. 

As far as bio films go it ticks all the right boxes. It’s well-researched, beautifully put-together and stylistically on point. As it goes with these type of films, certain parts of the protagonist’s life get a swift glance over whilst other parts are thoroughly dissected. 

Salinger, like his fictional character Holden Caulfield, makes for a defiant, rebellious lead character. The mystery that surrounds him keeps the interest peaked. Nicholas Hoult as the iconic American writer is an absolute pleasure to watch on screen. His portrayal is honest, not overly dramatic, and calm with great attention to detail. It might not win him any awards but it’s a worthy big screen representation of a remarkable writer.  

Rebel in the Rye premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2017 and released in American theatres on 8 September. The South African press screening for the film took place before the news broke of the allegations of sexual abuse against Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey.

Spacey takes on the role of Whit Burnett, a lecturer at Columbia University and mentor to a young Salinger. Watching the film before the shocking revelations afforded me the opportunity to experience Spacey’s portrayal of Burnett without bias. It was what I would call “another stellar Spacey performance”. But with the story currently being in the headlines Spacey’s appearance will undoubtedly negatively impact viewers’ experience of the film.  

Walking out of the theatre after watching Rebel in the Rye I instantly knew I had to read Catcher again. I found my copy in one of my boxes filled with old books from varsity and dusted it off. It’s a perfect read for the holiday season – even more so after watching the film. 

Read more on:    nicholas hoult  |  kevin spacey  |  movies

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