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A backhanded compliment in film form

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Salinger is an adoring portrait of a great writer that unwittingly paints its subject as terrible, awful human being. Using archival footage, a plethora of interviews with critics and some laughably melodramatic reenactments, the film follows J. D. Salinger's life as a young, unpublished author up to his reclusive years in New Hampshire. Strong focus is paid to Salinger's time in World War II, his post-war career painted as a ghostly reflection on the horrors he therein witnessed. That's a romantic explanation for why the author kept sleeping with teenagers. The film editorializes away this creepy aspect of Salinger's life, as though he's some romantic lost boy yearning for innocence. Salinger is presented in Salinger as a great mind, mercilessly traumatized by the worst parts of the Twentieth Century. He comes off instead as a coward, ignoring family and lovers so he can prattle on about nothing in his silly cabin.



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