A well-known Brit crit has compared this charming artless nugget to The Devil Wears Prada. Which is like comparing The Lion King to The White Tiger, or something equally unlikely. My Salinger Year has sturdy enough legs to stand on its own without being compared with other films where a star-struck ingenue joins an uppity diva to learn the tricks of the trade, or in the case of Devil Wears Prada, tricks of the thread.
My Salinger Year is set in a literary agency in New York in the 1990s run by an iron lady Margaret played by the wonderful Sigourney Weaver whom we haven’t seen since Walter Hill’s underrated The Assignment in 2016. She is reason enough to forgive this film’s trespasses.
Ms Weaver is still wonderfully authoritative, lending to her part of the no-nonsense literary agent both steel and heart, sometimes both together. The focus of attention is smalltowner Joanna Rakoff, played with infectious charm by Margaret Qualley. Joanna is ambitious and ruthless in her attitude to boyfriends. She is also unimpressed by JD Salinger who is the superstar-client of Margaret’s company and must be the only literate woman on Planet Earth who has not read The Catcher In The Rye. A lucana that Joanna hardly mourns over . She doesn’t have time for regret.She is too busy building her own life in New York, establishing contacts,and also answering Salinger’s fan mail.
This is New York in 1998. The film beautifully captures the scent of nostalgia, as well as that morning-time energy of coffee croissants and literary gupshup in roadside cafes. Margaret’s eagerness to learn and earn(not necessarily in that order) stalks the film’s fervent mood of cerebral activity. And yet this is not one of those futile exercises in literary pontification.
The narrative remains at the gossipy edges of the elite literary circles, more interested in eavesdropping on cerebral conversations than actually being part of them.Writer-director Philippe Falardeau keeps a loose yet firm hold of the proceedings. Sometimes I wished he gave some more time for the characters and relationships to grow. The sudden death of Margaret’s life partner, his kindness towards young Joanna needed some more exploration.
My Salinger Year is like a block of chocolate that leaves you craving for the entire bar.
What held my attention were Joanna’s telephonic conversation with, ahem, Salinger. His casual queries about what she read, how much she wrote and what she thought of his writing,give to the storytelling a kind of casual literary bent that is at once intriguing and exasperating.
Image source: IMDb
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