Hello Everyone, Janet W. here…
The Catcher in the Rye took the U.S. by storm nearly from its initial printing. The author, J.D. Salinger, transformed from obscurity to magnified limelight causing him to retract from the world. The more the public wanted to know him or be his infamous character, Holden Caulfield, the more withdrawn Salinger became which increased the mystery. In the past 66 years, the novel has been printed, re-printed, translated and massively distributed throughout the world. Schools have both required and banned the reading for reasons of profanity and its message. Rebel in the Rye details Salinger’s (Nicholas Hoult) life and progression as a writer. From his early years as a willful, smart mouth to an obsessed literary giant.
Hoult as Salinger made an absolutely jarring entrance. Not because he was not good-looking, quite the contrary. To assume the mantle of Salinger this handsome, naturally blue-eyed, man wears the most off-putting brown contacts. In a way, it steals the focus from his performance at times. I have enjoyed Hoult’s performances many times over the years. First time was as an awkward little boy in About a Boy. Even next to Hugh Grant, Hoult stole the show. Most recently, Hoult has taken innocence and turned it into something sexy and adorable in films like Clash of the Titans, the X-Men series beginning with X-Men: First Class, but Warm Bodies was by far my favorite so far. Enter an actor that has held me mesmerized for decades and in Rebel in the Rye as Salinger’s Creative Writing professor, Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey). Surely, none of you have never heard of Spacey. How many of you know of his bit role in 1988’s Working Girl opposite Melanie Griffith? He was the sleazy pimp in the limo. Man, was he revolting. In 1989, as the villain in See No Evil, Hear No Evil with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder?
Wow, it is amazing to see where some of our century’s best acting talent started. Spacey with his in your face wit, chameleon like ability, and super convincing mannerisms has entertained, drawn empathy and fear alike from audiences with roles like Buddy Ackerman in Swimming with Sharks, John Doe in Se7en, D.A. Rufus Buckley in A Time to Kill, and most recently as Francis Underwood in Netflix’s House of Cards. I have yet to see Spacey play a part that I didn’t fully believe, love, or become enraged by. The man is an acting genius. In Rebel in the Rye, Spacey does not disappoint. As Burnett, Spacey inspires viewers to greatness with one-liners that motivate and not just in creative writing but in life as well i.e. “When your voice overwhelms the story, your voice becomes ego.” Interesting point when applied to how we live.
A wonderful surprise was the appearance of Sarah Paulson as Salinger’s agent, Dorothy Olding. Paulson is a fascinating actress that I first saw in The Other Sister, then in Carol, and in my favorite of her performances on American Horror Story. As most of us know, each season Paulson and the others assume a new character. They have remade the way we look at actors and the roles they portray. Paulson is wowing on the show. She brings the tenacity and poise of Lana Winters (reporter from American Horror Story) to Olding. Keep it coming, Paulson, I am eager for your next role.
In the end, I enjoyed Rebel in the Rye. Salinger was a very interesting man. I just might have to read/listen to The Catcher in the Rye. The production was solid in appearance and feel. The director and writer of Rebel in the Rye, Danny Strong, has quite the acting past himself. He was the teenage cult nerd Jonathan Levinson from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since then, he has established himself as a formidable inventor of stories such as Empire, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 & 2. Who knew? Kudos to you, Strong! You made me laugh as a teenager and you move me as an adult. I am enjoying your work.
Janet L. White
Your friendly straightforward neighborhood critic