June 17, 2013

Trailer for J.D. Salinger documentary released


J.D. Salinger is the subject of a documentary film that will be released this fall.

This is a big year for literature in films, between the overblown Baz Luhrmann Great Gatsby and the much more appealing take on Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon hitting screens in recent weeks, and the second installment in the endless interpretation of The Hobbit coming in December. Joining their ranks on the documentary side is a movie about the life and work of J.D. Salinger, for which the first theatrical trailer has just been released.

Mike Fleming, Jr. writes for Deadline that the Weinstein Company has released its first trailer for Salinger, a documentary directed by Shane Salerno, who has spent some eight years and $2 million of his own money to bring his vision to the big screen. You can see it for yourself here:


Fleming explains that he saw an earlier cut of the movie before Salinger’s death, and the trailer doesn’t necessarily do it justice. “There’s a lot of good stuff in that movie that isn’t revealed here,” he writes, “even from the early version I saw.” Still, it’s hard not to notice that the movie presented by the trailer feels rather off-kilter.

Salinger was famously reclusive, of course, so it makes sense that there would be an air of mystery and discovery surrounding a documentary about him. This trailer, though, takes the tone beyond mysterious to something more sinister. I don’t understand why a film about Salinger is made to look like one of the Jason Bourne movies (The Bourne Hermitry! It’s the next big thing!). And I especially don’t understand why it opens with the story of a photographer grabbing a photo of Salinger, as if it provided some great insight, when in fact it’s just a run-of-the-mill paparazzo who managed to get a photo that doesn’t tell us anything about the author except that he didn’t want to be photographed.

The trailer and film include interviews with literary figures like Tom Wolfe and playwright John Guare, and people who knew Salinger personally, but there are also interviews with several big Hollywood names that leave me scratching my head. I like Danny DeVito just fine, but I can’t say I’ve been dying to hear his thoughts on Salinger.

A trailer doesn’t tell you everything about a movie, obviously, and I hope that Fleming is right that there’s more to this documentary than these two-and-a-half minutes promise. With what we have to go on so far, though, Salinger looks like it’s making some odd, off-putting choices in its portrayal of its subject.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.