I am republishing a list of “Holdenesque Films” that I complied almost one year ago. Suggestions and additions of movies that have that Holden vibe are also appreciated in the comment box below:
In my junior classes we have discussed why the novel The Catcher in the Rye has yet to be made into a film, and we thought about several interesting reasons, including the irony of having a main character of a movie who despises movies and hates actors, and who considers screenwriters “prostitutes” at best. I also added that Salinger himself is very reluctant to sell the rights to his novel (rumor has it even Spielberg took a stab at convincing him, although if I was Salinger, I would be very reticent, especially if I saw what Spielberg did to The Color Purple).
However there are several films that do their best to capture characters and situations that have that characteristic Holden feel to them . . .
The Good Girl: Jake Gyllenhall plays a reclusive and possibly depressed adolescent writer that works at a drugstore in rural Texas. The connections in this movie are pretty obvious, being that the character that Gyllenhall plays is named Holden. When he first meets his soon-to-be love-interest, Justine (played by Jennifer Aniston), he is reading from his favorite book, The Catcher in the Rye:
Justine: What’cha reading?
Holden:The Catcher in the Rye. I’m named after the main character.
Justine: What’s your name, Catcher?
Ordinary People: Robert Redford’s film from 1980 won a pile of awards from “The Academy,” most notably for best picture and best director (over Raging Bull and its director, a guy by the name of Scorsese). But in the film, a son deals with the death of his brother and the guilt that he experiences as he continues to live while his brother cannot (sound familiar?). Although at times dated, strong performances by the parents—a surprisingly good Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland–make this a movie that has almost, but not quite, stood the test of time.
The Squid and the Whale: This disturbingly wonderful independent treat by Noah Bambauch (co-writer with Wes Anderson of the brilliant The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) takes place at some point in the 1980’s in Brooklyn. But you have museums and ponds and families comprised of upper-middleclass writers and professors that are falling apart, all subjects that remind me of Salinger at his very best.
Garden State: “What?” you might be asking yourselves. “The movie made by the Scrubs guy?” In some ways, this film may be the opposite of Holden’s “madman” experiences around New York City for three days. In Garden State, our 28-year-old protagonist travels from L.A. to New Jersey to attend his mother’s funeral. In the four days that he spends there, he reconnects with old friends, makes new ones, and tries to begin a difficult healing process with his father / psychiatrist, who has prescribed a laundry list of drugs for his son to consume for as far back as he can remember.
Chapter 27: From what I’ve read this film is not really about Holden, but about a person that is crazy and wants to become Holden: Mark David Chapman. The only reason we know this name is because he assassinated John Lennon in 1980, and was arrested sitting on a curb a few feet away from his victim, purportedly reading from his favorite book that he took everywhere with him, The Catcher in the Rye. I have not seen this movie yet (and most likely never will), but the title–suggesting that the film is an additional chapter to The Cather in the Rye, which has 26–seems to imply that the film makes a point of commenting on Chapman’s favorite literary hero. Jared Leto did the cool Hollywood thing (which Holden would find undoubtedly phony) by packing on the method-acting pounds in order to give more authenticity to his role as the real psychotic killer he was trying to portray.
Are there others I missed? Feel free to comment and add to the list.