Salinger (film)

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The official movie poster for SALINGER documentary film.jpg
Directed by Shane Salerno
Produced by Shane Salerno
Buddy Squires
Deborah Randall
Craig Fanning
Written by Shane Salerno
Starring Martin Sheen
Edward Norton
John Cusack
Judd Apatow
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Cinematography Anthony Savini
Buddy Squires
Edited by Jeffrey Doe
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • September 6, 2013 (2013-09-06)
Country United States
Language English
Box office $650,675[1]

Salinger is a 2013 documentary film about the reclusive writer J. D. Salinger that was written, directed, produced and financed by Shane Salerno.

Production history[edit]

On January 29, 2010, the website first reported on the documentary, which had been kept secret for five years. Michael Fleming, the first journalist to view the film, called it "arrestingly powerful and exhaustively researched". Additionally, Fleming announced that Salerno had co-written a 700-page biography on Salinger with New York Times bestselling author David Shields.[2] On February 4, 2010, Entertainment Weekly detailed the elaborate security surrounding the film.[3]

"In the final analysis," Salerno told the Associated Press in 2011, "what distinguishes our film and book project is access—access to Salinger's friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle that have never spoken on the record before as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen." [4]

On February 27, 2013, it was announced that producer Harvey Weinstein had acquired the documentary for theatrical distribution after being the only studio head to see the finished film after the 85th Academy Awards. The purchase price was $2 million, which did not include television rights. The release date of September 6, 2013 was chosen so that the film could be a candidate for the 86th Academy Awards.[5] It did not receive a nomination.

According to Salerno, the project initially started as a feature film, with Daniel Day-Lewis as his choice to play Salinger.[6]


Salinger received largely negative reviews. The film is “garish and confusing,” wrote A.O. Scott in The New York Times, as well as “sloppy in matters of judgment and craft.” Scott found that it “does not so much explore the life and times of J.D Salinger as run them through a spin cycle of hype.” [7] In Vanity Fair, Bruce Handy called the movie “awful,” “breathless,” “humid” and “overheated.” Handy cited its many re-enactments, dubious use of personalities such as Martin Sheen as Salinger authorities, and “unforgivable use of corny cinematic devices to fill in the gaps and goose its own drama." He concluded, “In elevating Salinger into a gothic superman, the Dr. Doom of letters, it reeks with simple-minded grandiosity, a kind of inverse narcissism.” [8] "Salinger proceeds in an order that’s neither chronological nor thematic,” wrote Dana Stevens in, “making the film as a whole feel shapeless and pointlessly long.” She thought it "no goddam good," a "tabloid undertaking" and filled with "solemn, literal-minded vulgarity," concluding that Salinger's aura of "mystery is certainly hardy enough to withstand the voyeuristic onslaught of this self-aggrandizing, lurid documentary, which leaves the viewer feeling that we’ve been given a tour of Salinger’s septic tank in hip waders without ever getting to knock on his door and say hello." [9] Calling the film “the ultimate invasion of the author’s privacy,” Roger Ebert found it “stalkerish,” featuring “a creepy parade of people who were willing to hunt Salinger down in the hopes of getting answers to their psychological issues.” It was, Ebert wrote, “a relentless assault” and concluded, "Salinger tells us almost nothing we don’t already know.”[10] David Denby of The New Yorker found Salinger to be "self-important, redundant, and interminable." He compared the film to "a monstrous balloon that keeps re-inflating. If Salinger were around, he would reach for a pin." [11] Despite some “fascinating stories” and “undeniably interesting” material, wrote Jocelyn Noveck in Huffington Post, the film is “exhaustive, exhausting and overly hyped,” characterized by a “kitchen-sink approach” and “needless dramatizations” that “will make some viewers feel queasy.” [12]

The film currently holds a 35% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 84 reviews, with an average score of 5.4/10.[13] It was, however, one of the top-ten highest-grossing documentaries of 2013.[14]

American Masters Director's Cut[edit]

A director's cut of Salinger, with 15 minutes of additional footage, aired as the 200th episode of the PBS series American Masters on January 21, 2014. David Zurawik in The Baltimore Sun wrote, "This is really an impressive documentary. The profile [Salerno] comes up with is worthy and then some of the American Masters. Salerno respects the greatness of The Catcher in the Rye and you will hear people, literary scholars... talking about what this book means and it's really great literary criticism. I think this is one of the best American Masters they have had in years."[15] Nathan Southern in TV Guide gave Salinger three out of four stars and wrote, "Shane Salerno's documentary Salinger—a biographical profile of reclusive [The] Catcher in the Rye author J. D. Salinger—is an emotionally stirring and affecting work."[16]

However, in Newsday, Verne Gay gave the film a rating of “C+”, praising its “remarkable footage” and “smart observations from smart people” but finding an “emptiness at the core” and "insufficient analysis." [17]

On January 22, 2014, the Associated Press reported that "within hours" of Salinger appearing on American Masters, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye soared to number 1 on[18]


  1. ^ "Salinger". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (January 29, 2010). "Secret J.D. Salinger Documentary & Book, Now Revealed (Mike Has Seen The Film)". Deadline Hollywood. 
  3. ^ Sperling, Nicole (February 4, 2010). "J.D. Salinger documentary: the top-secret film five years in the making". Entertainment Weekly. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (February 27, 2013). "J.D. Salinger Documentary Acquired By Harvey Weinstein".
  6. ^ "An hour with filmmaker Shane Salerno on his documentary about reclusive author J.D. Salinger.". Charlie Rose. PBS. September 3, 2013.
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  13. ^ Salinger (2013) at Rotten Tomatoes
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  15. ^,0,3086683.story
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External links[edit]