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J.D. Salinger’s Writing and Film: Five Salinger-esque Films 
 
by Mieko Lindeman July 06, 2005

Finding Forrester

The intellectually gifted but unguided Jamal Wallace from the Bronx gets a scholarship to a top prep school after a standardized test reveals his true abilities. While he navigates an alien social world where he is seen merely as the black jock basketball star, his secret passion for writing is discovered by a reclusive author in his home neighborhood. This reclusive author, William Forrester (played by Sean Connery) develops a friendship with him and becomes his mentor for writing. Like the movie it is often compared to, “Good Will Hunting”, it focuses much on the struggle to develop and accept one’s talents and individuality. While the mentoring relationship smacks of “Good Will Hunting” rip-off, the film is truly a distinctive story. “Finding Forrester” focuses much more on the mentor figure’s own complexes with life, and uses the outlook-change of the mentor to really clinch the movie’s end. Melodrama surges now and then, mostly during writing and heart-to-heart sessions between Wallace and Forrester, but the rest of the film is relatively believable and well-done.

The J.D. Salinger Connection: If you haven’t already guessed, the reclusive author character, William Forrester, is based on J.D. Salinger. The film indulges the lonely genius-type quite a bit, as Connery’s character scoffs at his literary critics, traverses around an apartment full of books and papers and spouts about the art of writing with an air of frustration with the world’s glamorization of it. It’s not exactly a presumptuous portrayal of just Salinger but really more of a light caricature of solitary geniuses and eccentric artists in general. It’s an ambitious manifestation of all the scrutiny and theories about Salinger’s real-life hermitage and his views on his own writing. In short, it tries to fully portray Salinger’s mind (or a Salinger-like mind) with a lot of emphasis on his assumed neurosis and emotions. In a gossipy way, it’s enjoyable to watch as a complete depiction of his mythic character. Who knows, perhaps it is entirely accurate.

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