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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie doesn't have a specific moral or judge the characters' choices. If anything, its message is that some artists have to choose between their art and the things that make most people happy. Perhaps the most positive message is that it's possible to fend off the demons of PTSD creatively, not destructively.
Positive Role Models
Salinger essentially chooses fidelity to his art above all else, including his family. Whether that's negative, though, depends on your perspective. He's certainly not portrayed as a role model. Several characters earnestly provide him help and guidance.
Violence & Scariness
Nongraphic war imagery; the horrors of a concentration camp are implied; a violent mugging is shown. It's bloodless, but the trauma of war is taken very seriously -- giving it quite a bit of impact.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A May-December romance is discussed. Sensual contact between young lovers; no nudity.
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Curses of the time (mostly 1940s): a few "goddamns" and the like, "stupid."
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Products & Purchases
Like his creation, Holden Caulfield, the character of Jerry Salinger rejects what he sees as materialistic "phonies." He turns his back on lucrative schemes to stay true to his art.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking, with some drunkenness, especially by a mentor figure and when Salinger self-medicates his PTSD. Smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Rebel in the Rye is a drama that shows a young, whip-smart J.D. Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) being put through the ringer of World War II. The combat is portrayed in a nongraphic way, but he sees comrades killed, including a dear friend. He also sees a concentration camp, and there's a mugging. Expect scenes of drinking/partying and smoking (common for the era); there's also a little language ("goddamn," etc.) and a few moments of mild sensuality. Ultimately, Salinger essentially turns his back on the world -- including his family -- to pursue his art, and the film looks deeply into what shapes an artist. And it may well inspire viewers, especially teens, to pick up Salinger's works. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This drama is one of the best-written films of 2017 and is Hoult's richest work yet. Spacey has won two Oscars, but here, none of the wires are visible as they are in his sly, somewhat meta House of Cards performance. He entirely inhabits Whit and is gifted with a real arc for his character. In a very strong supporting cast (including Victor Garber, Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutsch, and Lucy Boynton of Sing Street), it's the wonderful Hope Davis who stands out as Salinger's mother. The scene in which she receives a copy of his novel is quietly moving.
But the real star is the script, adapted by first-time feature director Danny Strong from Kenneth Slawenski's book, J.D. Salinger: A Life. Strong won an Emmy for writing HBO's Game Change and penned the underrated final two Hunger Games movies. His Rebel skillfully lays in exposition, avoiding standard biopic traps by allowing us to experience hinge moments, rather than have them indicated to us. There are clever lines to burn, and the film will catch many off-guard with its depiction of the notoriously reclusive Salinger in his youth: a charming fellow of no small wit. Most importantly, the film tries to get between those churning gears within the head of an artist. It cannily realizes that Salinger's sensibilities -- and sensitivities -- made him particularly vulnerable to the trauma of war. It's excellent work, and a lesson in the writer's voice.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.