Rebel in the Rye

Danny Strong, who scripted Lee Daniels’s marvelous The Butler, makes his directing debut with this formulaic biopic of J.D. Salinger, covering the author’s life in the 1940s and early ’50s and focusing on his creation of The Catcher in the Rye. As with The Butler, Strong crams his script with as many events as possible, exploring few of them in depth, and his dialogue is riddled with cliches. Daniels overcame these flaws with wildly stylized direction and unpredictable performances, but Strong has no distinct visual style and, aside from Kevin Spacey as Story magazine editor Whit Burnett, Salinger’s first mentor, the cast here is flat. Fatally, the movie fails to convey the sympathy and imagination of Salinger’s prose—instead characters simply state over and over again how brilliant he is. With Nicholas Hoult as Salinger.