Director Philippe Falardeau doesn't seem particularly excited by this publishing memoir about working at a literary agency in the 1990s
MY SALINGER YEAR (Philippe Falardeau). 101 minutes. Available on VOD to rent or buy on Friday (March 5). Rating: NNN
Philippe Falardeau’s adaptation of Joanna Rakoff’s coming-of-age publishing memoir is entertaining enough, but it never feels like the Monsieur Lazhar director is excited by, or connects to, the material.
In the mid-90s, aspiring poet Joanna (Margaret Qualley) gets a job as an assistant to Margaret (Sigourney Weaver), a patrician literary agent whose biggest client is the notoriously reclusive author J.D. Salinger.
Joanna’s main job is typing up Margaret’s correspondence – the old-school agent is suspicious of computers. But she’s also tasked with sending form letters to the hundreds of fans who still write the Catcher In The Rye author. Meanwhile, Joanna has shacked up in NYC with an egotistical, mansplaining aspiring author named Don (Douglas Booth).
While it’s not nearly as much fun as The Devil Wears Prada – the obvious comparison – My Salinger Year does capture what it’s like to be in your 20s and figuring things out.
The most intriguing sequences have little to do with the nominal plot, which concerns the publication of a new Salinger book and Joanna’s attempts to rise in a field in which she might not be entirely suited. Rather, they deal with those lonely correspondents who have found solace and connection through their idol’s books. Falardeau has these writers deliver their letters directly to the camera (look for Never Steady, Never Still‘s Théodore Pellerin as one of the more sympathetic fans).
There’s also a whimsical, enchanting fantasy sequence in which Joanna, swept up in the world of Salinger (whom she hadn’t read until then), dances with her ex at the Waldorf.
More of that kind of approach would have got us through the stop-and-start narrative and underwritten characters. (Colm Feore’s martini-swilling agent figure, for instance, never gets a proper payoff).