Saturday movie review: Coming Through The Rye

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I never read Catcher in the Rye. At least I don't recall reading J.D. Salinger's classic.

I kinda sorta remember thinking a few decades ago that I should read it, because, ya know, it's a classic that everyone has read. In my hazy recollection of that time, I think I may have started reading it but didn't finish because I didn't care for it. Or maybe I did finish it but it didn't resonate with me because I was a young mom with three kiddos under the age of five at the time, not a cynical male teen.

Whatever the case may be, I don't know the story that resonated with millions.

COMING THROUGH THE RYE is about one of those millions who did read the book, one of those millions for whom the tale not only resonated but changed their lives.

Coming Through The Rye movie

The endearing coming-of-age film is based on true experiences of filmmaker James Sadwith, who once upon a time loved Catcher in the Rye so very much that he wanted to turn it into a play — featuring him as Holden Caulfield. He wanted Salinger's approval on the venture, though, and set out to find the reclusive author to get his blessing.

The press materials accompanying my screener link for the film summarize the plot far better than I could:

Based on events in the life of the Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Jamie Schwartz, a sometimes hapless 16 yr old, wants desperately to be a worldly adolescent. Unhappy at his all-boys boarding school, his life raft is the belief that he will someday play Holden Caulfield, the complex and alienated main character from The Catcher in the Rye, on Broadway and in the movies. Jamie adapts the novel as a play and runs away with a local girl to the mountains of New Hampshire to find JD Salinger. Their odyssey and the events that follow are a journey into unchartered territory of friendship, sexual awakening, love and loss. Academy Award winner Chris Cooper plays Salinger and two brilliant 16 yr. olds, Alex Wolff and Stefania Owen, are the leads.

Thankfully it's not necessary to know the plot of Catcher in the Rye to absolutely love and adore COMING THROUGH THE RYE. The film is sweet and sensitive, filled with nostalgia and a memorable protagonist with a deep longing for doing and being something that matters.

Alex Wolff touchingly plays an awkward teen on the brink of adulthood who does his best to shrug off the mean antics of his boarding school mates, longs for the pretty town girl but eventually finds a gem in the more average yet loyal girl, endures a painful loss, aspires to do the right thing. More than anything, though, he's determined to pay tribute to the author with whom he feels knows him like no other. Wolff deftly plays Jamie as funny, thoughtful, charming, persistent, sensitive, goofy, adorable. All at the same time.

Stefania Owen as Didi complemented Wolff in every way. She had an ethereal quality about her as she played the ideal, understanding girlfriend willing to go the distance for the boy she crushes on — while staying true to herself.

Chris Cooper, of whom I'm always a fan, perfectly portrays the author who seems pretty darn tired of kids like Jamie — fans who seek him out, fancy themselves a kindred soul, consider Salinger a savior of sorts, all of which makes it okay for them to infringe on his privacy and self-imposed exile. Cooper plays him as a a bit of a jerk... with a heart.

The attention to details of the time period struck me, left me nostalgic for a time period I was too young to recall. What fun it must have been to be the set director. And the cinematography? One scene in particular stands out, wherein Wolff and Owen, as Jamie and Didi, have a misty magical experience in a milkweed field, with the fairy like milkweed fluffs fluttering about them. One of the loveliest film scenes I've seen in a long time.

COMING THROUGH THE RYE seems to have flown below the radar. Yet it seems one and all who do see it love it:

COMING THROUGH THE RYE (rated PG-13 for "some drug material, sexuality and language") premiered at film festivals across the country throughout 2016 and won several awards. The film opened in limited theaters in October and is now available on DVD as well as streaming services such as iTunes, Amazon Video, Cable VOD. Find out more on the film's official website.

Disclosure: I received a free screener link for review; opinions are 100 percent my own.