Chasing Holden

2002, Movie, R, 101 mins


This mopey coming-of-age movie exploits the reading public's ongoing fascination with reclusive J.D. Salinger and futilely equates its immature protagonist with Salinger's Holden Caulfield. Following the suicide of his gay older brother, Neil Lawrence (D.J. Qualls), the teenage son of New York's Governor (Tom Rack), spends some time in a mental institution and then heads off to boarding school. Neil feels unloved, as though he's an interruption in his dad's busy schedule; he also resents the Governor's refusal to accept his son's homosexuality and blames him for not having prevented the boy's self destruction. At Devonbrooke Academy, Neil tries to play by the rules but gets sidetracked by an English class assignment involving his favorite book, Catcher in the Rye. The task is to figure out what happened to Holden Caulfield after the book ended, and Neil tackles it by writing a letter to reclusive author J.D. Salinger. Meanwhile, Neil bonds with beautiful co-ed T.J. Jensen (Rachel Blanchard), and when Salinger doesn't respond to his query, Neil proposes that he and T.J. cut school and try to corner Salinger at his home. In the history of Cinema, has a character ever taken his homework this seriously? The duo run away to NYC and have a series of adventures, including T.J.'s near-rape by a hotel clerk. Always too sensitive for his own good, Neil can barely handle the news that T.J. is terminally ill; she eventually tires of this fool's errand and ditches Neil to return home. Devastated by T.J.'s condition, Neil finally arrives at Salinger's New England home. Will Neil confront the anti-social writer or will he realize that he must supply the answer to his dilemmas for himself? Sadly, Salinger would probably sneer at this tripe, whose fatal-disease subplot is exactly the sort of tripe Holden rants about and the opposite of Salinger's own clear-eyed skepticism. leave a comment --Robert Pardi

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