Rebel in the Rye: A Figure Who Brought Holden Caulfield to Life

The first time I read The Catcher in The Rye is when I was 16. It was one of the first novels I’ve read. Not one of my favorite, tbh.


So I live in Indonesia and my school didn’t train us to make reading as a habit, it’s a kinda common thing here, then I’d never know about the novel from anywhere at school, until the day where a singer-songwriter, Greyson Chance, mentioned it in one of his tweet.


Long story short, the curious nerd younger self of me tried to look for that book, and voila, I got it. Since then, I could never forget the writer’s name (J.D. Salinger) and the fact that this book I read was first published in 1951, including the other fact that the writer has passed away 3 years before I read the book (so sad).


In 2018, my YouTube account suggested a movie trailer that seems familiar to me, “Rebel in The Rye”, starred by the actor I know, Nicholas Hoult. I immediately clicked the video and didn’t get disappointed, because I finally got the chance to learn more about the writer!


I still don’t really get why am I so curious with the life of a writer, philosopher, or scientist (like Marie Curie for instance). It’s been my own hidden curiosity (the one I’d never tell anyone) since I was in junior school.


Let’s get back to the topic. The film was released in 2017, the story line is basically about Jerome David Salinger (Jerry Salinger), a young, not really smart, and sarcastic kid who didn’t want to be a “King of Bacon” as his father wished him to. He wants to be a writer and took a creative writing major in Columbia University.


[WARNING!!! This post contains a spoiler, but the film still worth the watch. I didn’t spoil much.]


He met a lecturer which soon will be his mentor, Whit Burnett. After that meeting at the café, young Jerry started to learn a lot of things about writing. Not only him, but also the audiences as well, we can also learn to write a story that could bring up some feelings on the readers mind. As the story goes, we can understand how hard it was to publish a book in that age, how Jerry respects his privacy a lot, and more because of the trauma he had when he was a soldier in World War II.


As a biography film, we’ll find a lot of Jerry’s life stories, like when he got rejected by the publishers for multiple times, then almost got published right when the war has just started, or when his girlfriend, Oona O’Neil, dumped him by marrying an old man.


Whit once said to him,

“Are you willing to devote your life to telling the stories, knowing that you may get nothing in return? And if the answer is no, well, then you should go out there and find yourself something else to do with your life because you are not a true writer,”

which got him thinking about his willing (and mine) to write. It all then finally comes to the point where his novel about a grumpy sarcastic boy, The Catcher in the Rye, was booming and so much more famous than what he imagined this whole time.


Jerry felt overwhelmed, he don’t want a fame, all he wants is to write and write and write, so he looked for peacefulness by moving from New York City to live in Cornish, New Hampshire to have a new life and meditate, which he learned from a Buddhist Zen monk. He was married and had two children, but he stayed in a small hut near their house to write, and never published even one of his writings until the end of his life.

Nicholas Hoult as J.D. Salinger in Rebel in the Rye

Despite of the real story of J.D. Salinger, I also want to appreciate how Nicholas Hoult could bring the character alive. I don’t know J.D. Salinger, like how he speaks, think, or gesture, but through Hoult’s acts along the film, I can feel all the nervous and awkwardness when Jerry met Oona, desperation when he was at war, even the struggle moments he had, Hoult expresses it all through his eyes and mimic.


And then I was wondering about the 6.6/10 rate from IMDb, I mean, it’s a TOTALLY UNDERRATED MOVIE! Because I’m gonna put 8.5/10 for the story line, cinematography, vibe, and the acts.


p.s.: the cover photo credit goes to this website