I came across this article recently about the prospect of filming “Catcher in the Rye”, and whether or not the book really is “unfilmable.” Salinger naturally refused to sell the rights during his lifetime, but with his recent death comes a renewed swirl of intrigue over the idea of a movie.
Personally, I think it would be a terrible idea — well intentioned and undoubtedly irresistible — but terrible nevertheless. I used to think that seeing Holden portrayed on screen would an interesting and satisfying experience, but since I’ve been re-reading the book, I’ve changed my mind rather drastically. How would Holden’s voice ever be captured on film? The bulk of the novel takes place inside his head, and the plot follows his thoughts as they ramble and meander across the pages — the beauty of the narrative lies in its rambling disorganization, its wonderful digressions. Most of the best lines in the entire book aren’t dialogue, but thought; with the novel, I feel as though I’m literally reading Holden’s mind. What would the result of that be onscreen? The only way to really capture most of the book would be through an actor’s voiceover, which is a tricky technique at the best of times; I suppose if it was really well done, it would work, but the film would run an awful danger of sounding grating and clichéd. And, of course, what actor could play a convincing Holden?
Perhaps I’ve just been burned too many times, watching some of my favorite books be turned into misguided and wrongly-cast screen adaptations (though, to Hollywood’s credit, there have been a few good ones). Or, maybe it’s the fact that it seems like sheer hypocrisy to put a character who despises movies as much as Holden does — “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.” — on the screen. With a bunch of phonies, no doubt.
That’s just my opinion, though (and I admit, I can be incredibly picky). How do you think a “Catcher” movie would fare? And who could play Holden?