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 colorful backdrop of mid-20th century New York City, Rebel in the Rye follows a young Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) as he struggles to find his voice, pursues a love affair with famed socialite Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch), and fights on the frontlines of World War II. It’s these experiences that will 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. Co-starring Kevin Spacey and Sarah Paulson, Rebel in the Rye offers a tantalizing window into the life and times of a little-understood genius who broke the rules and redefined American literature.

What We Thought:

I was one of those kids who grew up enjoying The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield  was an outcast like the rest of us. Rebel in the Rye gives us a glimpse into the reclusive life of the man who brought Holden to life, J.D. Salinger.

The underrated Nicholas Hoult plays Salinger during his years in college, the War, his early love life and being published in The New Yorker. Hoult humanizes a man who walked away from the world, a potential career and history. I can’t say for sure how accurate Hoult’s portrayal is, but he does a great job as Salinger especially his manic episodes.

The rest of the cast is good as well. You can never go wrong with Kevin Spacey, one of the best actors of his generation. He plays Salinger’s professor who helps him get published and was active in the push to make the story of Holden Caulfield into the book we all love. Victor Garber, Hope Davis, and Sarah Paulson also play big roles in Salinger’s life. Zoey Deutch is the young socialite Salinger first falls for and who breaks his heart when he goes to war. Lucy Boynton, who is one of my favorite young actresses going, is also one of Salinger’s loves.

Emmy winner Danny Strong makes his feature-length directorial debut and also wrote the film. It’s a rather straight forward biopic, but the subject matter is fascinating. Again, who knows how accurate any of it is, but anytime you can get a clue about what made Salinger the person he was and why he ultimately never wrote another book is a good thing.

Salinger fanboys/fangirls should like Rebel in the Rye. Hoult continues his run of strong performances and the rest of the cast are good too. It’s not a groundbreaking film or anything like that, but it’s worth seeing if you like The Catcher in the Rye and Salinger.

Cast & Crew:

  • Nicholas Hoult
  • Kevin Spacey
  • Writer/Director Danny Strong
  • Victor Garber
  • Hope Davis
  • Sarah Paulson
  • Zoey Deutch
  • Lucy Boynton

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