The Weight Of Pages: Our Review of ‘Rebel In The Rye’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - October 06, 2017
The Weight Of Pages: Our Review of ‘Rebel In The Rye’

The hardest thing to always live up to is the expectations of others…

While the biopic is a well mind field of material it all usually hinges on the subject and with Rebel In The Rye we get an early look at the life and career of J.D. Salinger that plays out well enough thanks to the strength of the ensemble cast.

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.

Pulled from the pages of Salinger’s biography, Rebel In The Rye is a decent enough directorial debut from writer/director Danny Strong who keeps it all in check by never getting too reverential with the material and allowing for his actors to carry the weight of the narrative.

Strong, in his feature debut has a steady yet unflashy hand as he sets his story out on its tracks.  Playing well enough and using the time period and the scenery around him to great advantage in New York City he allows it all to be a subtle supporting player in it all and we occasionally forget that this is a period piece, instead of a character study of a wayward young man trying to find himself.  Strong doesn’t try to force bullet points from the life of Salinger down our throats and instead allows him to simmer as an actual character rather than an icon of literature.  It’s visually solid and well shot affair that isn’t trying to reinvent any kind of storytelling wheel in anyway, and that’s exactly what needed to be done in order for the actors who you could feel that Strong allowed to work with the characters and make them something more than footnote’s in the life of Salinger, played by Nicolas Hoult who he directed here to very solid performance.

Hoult is never a guy who you expect to carry a feature but as he’s proven here and time and time again he is more then up to the task.  As Salinger he brings a degree of vibrancy and energy to it all, in his youth as an ambitious yet seemingly directionless young writer to his later days where he simply can’t survive under the weight of the pages that he has written and what they mean to so very many people.  Hoult allows him to be crushed under the weight of his own talent and it comes out in a solid performance.  Kevin Spacey matches him well as a mentor for the up and coming Salinger while the indomitable Sarah Paulson as his publisher Dorothy Olding is an always welcome sight.  Sadly there just isn’t a lot of developed characters in this story after those three and some fine actors like Zoey Deutch, Hope Davis, Eric Bogosian and Canada’s own Victor Garber get kind of wasted in supporting roles that could have used a little more fleshing out.

Ultimately, with the Rebel In The Rye there are some undeniable flashes of quality storytelling and genuine talent with some unavoidable flaws that left me wanting more of this story then was up on the screen for us to see.

This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.